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Gov. Kotek tells C. Oregon leaders she won’t support managed homeless camps outside urban growth boundaries

Gov.-elect Tina Kotek, visits Shepherd's House shelter during March 2022 visit to Bend
KTVZ file
Gov.-elect Tina Kotek, visits Shepherd's House shelter during March 2022 visit to Bend

(Update: Adding Patti Adair comments)

She says meeting 'yielded common ground'; Bend mayor still hopeful of state funding

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Gov. Tina Kotek has told three Central Oregon elected officials at a meeting on homelessness issues that she is not willing to support managed camps located outside of Bend's or Redmond's urban growth boundaries. But she said the talk "yielded common ground and, I hope, a path forward."

After Friday's meeting, conducted online, with Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler, Redmond Mayor Ed Fitch and Deschutes County Commissioner Patti Adair, the governor provided this statement to NewsChannel 21 and other media about what they discussed:

"We know that homelessness looks different in different parts of the state, and solutions that work for one region may not work for another. I am committed to being a partner across the state to ensure access to safe, clean, shelter for people who need it.

"I continue to firmly believe that we must exhaust every possible option within the UGB for shelter sites that provide practical options for people experiencing homelessness in Central Oregon, like safe park sites and other alternatives to outdoor camping sites particularly as winter approaches.

"My conversation with local elected county leaders today yielded common ground, and, I hope, a path forward."

Deschutes County has been working through new codes to greatly restrict camping on county-owned public land, but has said it would not enforce the new rules until there are two managed campsites those required to relocate could move to. Commissioners have been looking at creating such a managed camp outside Bend or Redmond's urban growth boundary, but that apparently won't receive support (or funding) from the governor.

Kebler provided this response to NewsChannel 21 about the meeting with the governor:

"The meeting was specifically to talk about alternative outdoor shelter needs, and I was pleased that the Governor heard from Mayor Fitch, Commissioner Adair and myself that we are aligned in wanting to find a way to provide this type of supervised, serviced, and secure managed parking/camping as a resource for people who are currently living in unsanctioned encampments on public land all over the county.

"Given that Deschutes County has stated they are looking to create two managed camps before asking people to leave the Juniper Ridge area, the meeting was very timely.

"I believe there could be a possibility of state funding through the emergency order that the Governor declared earlier this year, but most of the discussion was about uniting behind the concept and continuing to look for appropriate city, county, and state parcels within the UGB of Bend and Redmond.

"The city of Bend will continue to partner how we can, especially with finding land that we own to use, but we do not have funding and staff capacity to run a new shelter resource, nor can we provide social services of the type that the county and nonprofits can provide, so it will need to be a joint effort, and I think everyone on the call understood that," Kebler said.

There have been discussions in recent weeks about holding an emergency coordination meeting of local, state and federal agencies on the issues and how to proceed. Kebler said that effort is being organized by the Coordinated Houseless Response Office.

"I certainly agree we need to be treating this situation as an emergency, and I’m grateful for the governor’s own emergency declaration and her hands-on approach working with us to problem-solve here in Central Oregon," the Bend mayor said.

Adair said Monday she still believes a nine-acre site just east of Bend, at Ward and Hamby roads, would be a “great spot” for the managed camp.

She noted that there are an estimated 250 homeless living in each of two locations, off China Hat Road south of Bend and at Juniper Ridge to the north.

“So she (Kotek) was like, ‘Think small,'” Adair recalled. “No -- it’s got to be cost-effective, has got to provide 24-hour security” and other services to work.

Adair said the next step apparently will be to review state-owned property within the urban growth boundaries, to see what could work for a managed camp.

“We’ve got the wild West” in the homeless camps at present, she said, noting how the state’s large wildfires are growing quickly in current conditions.

“We’ve got to keep the teeter-totter balanced,” in terms of where good locations could be, Adair said. “We have 45 acres in Redmond we could do something with.”

NewsChannel 21 also has also reached out to Mayor Fitch for any comments he wishes to share about the meeting with the governor.

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.


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