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Bend councilors wrestle with homeless issue, OK new campsite removal policy

(Update: Adding video, Councilors adopt policy, with direction to staff)

First focus is on campsite deemed 'unsafe' on NE Emerson Avenue; critics say city should not conduct a 'sweep'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Bend City Council, meeting in person for the first time in over a year due to the pandemic, were briefed on and wrestled with efforts to address one of the city's most challenging issues: the growing ranks of homeless, many living in campsites on the streets. They later unanimously approved the city manager's campsite management and possible removal policy in city rights of way, with added direction to staff on other steps to take.

Councilors discussed the ongoing homelessness situation in the city with various service providers as they attempt to provide 500 shelter beds to those in need -- not an easy task, nor as fast as city critics want.

With new numbers underscoring the growing problem of homelessness in Bend, and a new shelter in place, councilors were briefed on the new city policy to remove some homeless camps if deemed unsafe for campers or the public.

According to the preliminary annual Point in Time homeless count by the Homeless Leadership Coalition, homelessness in the region has seen a 13% increase from last year, totaling nearly 1,100 in a survey done earlier this year, including 169 unaccompanied youth, 891 adults 18+, and 89 veterans. Those involved say the numbers are no doubt much higher than those who could be counted at that time.

In partnership with NeighborImpact and the city, the Shepherd's House in Bend this week reopened its 70-bed, low-barrier shelter on Second Street.

Shepherd's House's Director of Emergency Services John Lodise says they have a goal or providing year-round services to those in need, but will only intake individuals between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. for an overnight stay.

"Then we get to the part of the night where we turn out the lights at 10 p.m. and because it's summertime, we don't want to encourage a lot of coming and going because it's less safe," Lodise said. "We're gonna lock the doors and unless its an emergency circumstance we're gonna stop intake at 10 o'clock." 

Associate City Attorney Elizabeth Oshel says they are attempting to address the ongoing problem at NE Emerson Avenue and Second Street in Bend as it has become a "matter of public concern."

"When a particular location starts getting more calls for service to police or other city departments or is otherwise identified by staff as raising health and safety concerns, staff would go ahead and analyze the location under the policy for the increasing presence of those conditions," Oshel said. "And then based on that analysis the city manager could declare a particular section of right of way where people are camping as an unsafe campsite." 

City Manager Eric King says the city is in the midst of a multi-year effort to increase mobility options, design safer streets, and reduce or eliminate fatal and serious injuries on city streets, so a policy should be put in place to manage homeless camps on city rights of way.

The policy sets out steps and procedures the city manager will use to determine when to remove established campsites on city rights-of-way.

King says this is intended to be used to remove those established campsites on city rights of way that are having the greatest impact on public health and safety, including for those individuals residing or camping at a particular location.

An “impact analysis” of the Emerson Avenue site, completed by police Captain Brian Kindel, noted nearly 40 tents and makeshifts on the street, the complaints from nearby businesses such as a “significant collection of waste,” some thrown in bags onto a car lot. Police documented 41 calls for service to the street between late April and June 1.

Councilor Rita Schenkelberg and several colleagues said the situation on Emerson Avenue is untenable and needs resolution, but urged revisions to the policy to provide more time for service providers to work with the residents. Schenkelberg says she hopes to avoid using a broad policy on all homeless camps, and that a specific policy could be put in place for Emerson Avenue, then revisited after what is done there to see what needs changing.

Councilor Anthony Broadman drew colleagues’ support in wanting to commit $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan funds toward siting a managed camp and working with Deschutes County to find a suitable suite. But King noted that the Veterans Village on the city’s north end, now nearing completion, shows that such projects are complex and take time to come to fruition.

However, several speakers during the visitors' section of the agenda who help the homeless sharply chastised the city for even considering moving the people living on Emerson Avenue without having ensured they had some place to go, and making their serious issues, from addiction to mental health, only worse, endangering their lives. They said they have been working to help the residents and that there are portable toilets and trash services at the location.

The motion to approve the new policy, approved unanimously later in the evening, added: "With the addition of notifying multiple service providers a minimum of 2 weeks before any closure, and direct staff to begin implementation, based on the criteria in the policy, only at Emerson and 2nd, and to come back to Council with an after-action report for consideration of changes to the policy and further direction on application.

"Additionally, Council recognizes the urgent need to establish near- and short-term options and directs staff to bring information about options back before Council, including a managed camp through a partnership with the county and other agencies with ARPA funds and matches, coordination for COVID safety with Mosaic Medical and St Charles, establishing pop-up navigation center for service coordination and a day center, and ensuring there are bathroom facilities for sanitation and safety of people who are unhoused."

Bend / Government-politics / News / Top Stories
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Alec Nolan

Alec Nolan is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Alec here.

Barney Lerten

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Comments

47 Comments

    1. Agreed. Heartbreaking. Because human life is precious and painful experiences bring people to their knees sometimes. I’m thankful to have family, a solid foundation in my childhood, safety nets, a living wage, help, access to medicine and mental health. No one makes it on their own. Everyone needs help. Traumatized people don’t deserve to live in exile.

  1. 1:Quit wasting money on paying for bums to sleep on the sidewalks and allowing illegal “camping” overnight on state lands.
    2: Make trespassing a fineable offense again.
    3: Quit with the PO officers making public lands an option for a residency.
    How hard is that to get back to????

      1. Those court rulings are a big part of what created this problem in the first place. Step one would be to reverse those rulings. How would you like it if some jerk just parked an RV or set up a “camp” in your front yard or business and you got told by the police that there was nothing they can do because of those rulings you brought up?? I’ve had to personally deal with that crap several times and its not pleasant to say the least. I think the people in favor of all this anarchy are the ones that don’t have to deal with it upfront.

        1. The homeless are a heterogenous group. I divide them roughly into the newly homeless and the chronically homeless. Those of the public that don’t have to deal with the chronically homeless, have a romanticized view of the homeless person as if they have a heart of gold and puppy dog eyes. Personally, I have a variety of homeless people camped in front of my place of business. They use IV drugs, crap, huff, leave garbage, watch their phones, all while partially blocking the entrance. When I was gone, someone was stabbed right there where I walk.

          Those that deal directly with the homeless make their living off “helping” them and are unlikely to offer insight on how to solve anything: one doesn’t bite the hand that feeds. It’s better that there are homeless people to justify their job and thus income. If one were truly trying to help the homeless, then the ultimate goal of success would be job elimination and contraction of the homeless industry jobs.

          So far as changing the laws, I would think that would require electing different leaders willing to change the law. In the current political landscape, that’s not going to happen in Oregon any time soon. So, perhaps the quickest way forward is to encourage full support for any lunatic wanting to “help the homeless” and, with some risk, hope that the public sees how inept such policies are. In the off-chance the policies work, I will stand corrected.

        2. It’s essentially ownership people versus non-ownership people. One trick is to own in a slightly higher traffic area as these people tend to settle in lower traffic areas for the extended stay. It certainly sucks for the people that own where they do settle in.

    1. Yeah screw those legal decsions based on a judge’s interpretation of the Constitution, we just want to be able to do whatever we our emotions tell us to do.

    2. Go back where you came from. if you are so passionate about it this topic why don’t you go out and meet some of these “Bums” and see the Dr other side of the spectrum.. obviously you have had it so good and can’t deal with the uncomfortable feelings associated with this subject…how are you going to answer to the creator when it’s your turn? Good luck!?

      1. Hi Mock. I’ve been homeless before so I know what it takes to get out of it. Have you?? Do you even give charity in any way. Maybe. I don’t know you but from what your saying your passion is to tell everyone else where they came from and how to be. It makes you feel empowered. I don’t hate homeless people. (don’t let the handle fool you so easily) In fact I think its incredibly harmful to enable people to live like that. Its gone beyond a “handout”. When I was homeless for a brief time, back then here in Oregon it was “get off your ass or die on the street”. It was not easy. Again, nothing wrong with getting help and giving help but it comes to a point where people need to help themselves also. That’s the “its complicated” rhetoric you hear.

        1. Great points as well. There are no doubt there are those among the “homeless” who, with appropriate help, could get back on their feet. But they seem to be among the minority and the rest will just divert resources from those who would successfully become self sufficient. My main irritation comes from the pseudo-moralistic crowd who want to complain and virtue signal how compassionate they are for someone else to magically fix the homeless issue about which I doubt they don’t have a clue about. We can’t save them all and the many don’t seem to want to be saved.

  2. Those “harsh critics” include Michael Satcher and Luke Richter, representing the “Peacekeepers”.

    Reading their Facebook pages one can see how the Peacekeepers claim having “flipped” the city council by supporting candidates they believed would tie their line…and who they have now begun denigrating and threatening to see replaced next election cycle given their not being “woke” enough.

    Satcher is waiting trial this July in Crook County on multiple criminal charges, is also in a civil suit with the City of Bend.

    He was recently cited in lieu of arrest for criminal trespass in Bend.

    1. re: Cardiacspikecancel… I agree about the peacekeepers.. and would ad they are nothing of the sort.. they like to divide.. and divide they will. I snoop on their page..and create counter posts against them.. 🙂 I try to do everything opposite.. they don’t care about the safety of the community in all reality.

  3. Just a reminder these people are someone’s son, daughter, mom, dad, sister , brother… can you imagine having a home…bathroom, washer…place for your belongings. Then loosing is all. Who care for what reason. Living in a tent or car without a bathroom. No safe place to stay. No refrigerator to keep your food safe. These people are not a problem they are our neighbors.

        1. That is what they are doing now right? No way all the camps will disappear with 1 new “low barrier” shelter. “Low barrier” is pc speak for shooting gallery where anyone can come in and use drugs.

        2. That’s what AOC did for her Puertx Ricxn Abuellx. That’s what Obama did for his brother living in squalor. I hear an awful lot of progressives complain about “affordable” housing and supporting the camps while at the same time decrying the camps. If every progressive put their money, and spare rooms, where their mouths are they could show how heartless and evil their enemies are by housing these homeless souls in their own houses. Come on guys. You can do it. How many could we fit in Kate Brown’s house up in Powell Butte?

          1. Agreed, I would be happy if they could prove how evil I am by doing their part personally to house, feed, and clean up the homeless. It’s always so much more emotionally gratifying to demand someone else take responsibility for problems so they can advocate for a problem they did nothing to solve. I get the idea they are infantilizing the homeless, which I am not prone to do as I recognize they are adults and can make their own decisions about how to run, or destroy, their lives. But until I see them walking their talk, I’m pretty sure my conscience is going to remain quite clear.

            That said, there are no doubt a minority of the “homeless” who would do well with some well placed assistance. But only if we can separate them out from the overall group.

        3. So if they burn all bridges available to them, it now becomes society’s responsibility to make up for their poor behavior, bad decisions and feelings of entitlement? Some people insist on digging their own grave and we can’t stop them. Just feeling sorry won’t solve anything. Understanding exactly why they are homeless must precede having the knowledge of how to help them. Then we must determine how much money we have to spare to help and realize a large portion will be wasted and may encourage further helplessness in the chronically homeless. I do support doing something, but want specific information and a well circumscribed plan with metrics before doing anything. I doubt the current city council, except perhaps Broadman, has the bandwidth to do anything this complicated.

    1. I’d be willing to bet the increasing number of vagrants who’ve chosen to summer in Bend as not recently displaced locals. The words out liberal west coast states and towns are accommodating with lenient drug laws. Have you been out to Hunnell Rd or driven to Bi Mart lately the trash along with human waste piling up is beyond offensive. So let’s not play the “neighbor” card. One good thing for those considering living or vacationing in Bend a quick drive thru town… I’d keep going .

    2. Address please? I have a few takers right in front of my place of business. Can you also provide a bit of power, place to crap, balloons for huffing, sleeping pad and a garbage can?

  4. Bend travel website might as well add a homeless section on the benefits of coming here. “Come to Bend homeless folks you can pee in public, camp anywhere you want and we’ll pay for all your needs,,your stay includes a monthly cleanup of your waste and site so you can rebuild any way you like, a little insider tip,, just steal the materials you need from local construction sites and businesses, we promise you’ll have more protection than those businesses or citizens, and the “I just ran out of gas story still works here!”

    1. Not everyone that is homeless do the things you describe. You shouldn’t be too haste in judgement. It makes your character more offensive then your judgemental attitude

  5. what do you think about the city turning the empty building where dave holt was that blue dog rv didnt take over Barney? I’m surprised none of the homeless tried to gain illegal access to it already. Saw firetruck and ambulance at the shelter tonight when drove home from work hopefully wasn’t an od or like an unruly mime.

      1. We no doubt have both problems, and there may be some overlap, but both are independently complicated so as to make determining how much housing prices contribute to homeless extremely difficult. Perhaps King’s aim is more political than anything else, as that suits the current city council we have. From that perspective, I can’t blame the guy.

  6. aww the Californians brought their homeless with them. I say let it go, soon enough it will spill over into neighborhoods and then maybe the housing prices will go down. or set them up a camp out of town and provide basic services. maybe 26 miles east of bend on hwy 20…?

  7. IMO, there’s a major difference between a hand OUT and a hand UP. The latter implies that if you find yourself in dire straits (either through your own incompetence or simply a run of bad luck), there are resources to assist you in finding your way back to some sense of normalcy.

    I have…and will continue…to help out as I can to those who have fallen on some bad times…but seem to be willing to improve their own lot through hard work, better decisions, etc.

    But, it appears many of the current homeless locally appear to be counter-culture. They don’t WANT to be responsible…they don’t WANT to pay taxes…they’re perfectly happy treading water, just letting life take them where it wants, as opposed to them making decisions for themselves.

    Can’t afford rent…I get that. It’s expensive to live here. Can’t (or WON’T) work…yet has a cell phone, a dog…what I simply can’t accept is the abundance of trash, the collections of flotsam and jetsum that builds up around these camps. And yeah, I get it…when you don’t have a pot to pee in, maybe you compensate by collecting …stuff…just to make yourself feel more empowered. But expecting me, as a fellow citizen and a taxpayer to clean up THEIR mess, subsidize THEIR choice of lifestyle…that’s where I draw the line.

    I went down to Hunnell Acres last week to see if I could HIRE a few folks to help me spread about 10 yards of topsoil in my backyard. You think I could get any help? Nope…nothing but excuses as to why they couldn’t. Yet they were more than happy to accept the BIG garbage bag filled with cans and bottles at 10 cents a pop. In retrospect, I’m sort of glad…because I could have opened myself up to a burglary or thefts from my house later on.

    It’s a complicated issue, folks…

    1. Good to know. I too have a project I need help with, but now I know this a low yield activity. Kudos for actually doing something meaningful.

    1. Omg I’m a conservative! I can’t stand to read or think! I just don’t believe a bleeding heart, virtue signaling, ignoramus community with a bag of someone else’s money will solve anything.

      I have read about similar programs. But I still have questions and doubts. They moved people off the street, but didn’t say how many returned to a successful life, if crime and drug use went down, or if social services provided went down. If it can be shown that a housing first policy works, as shown by unbiased evidence, then fine let’s do it. But this article seemed biased towards supporting the homeless industry.

  8. A major challenge for homeless individuals… Identification. No ID, no address,no mail delivery. No moving forward.

    I recently had to get a copy of my birth certificate, all online. Easy for me but what about those who don’t have access to technology. Don’t understand the rules. And then you have to navigate the system AND the document has to be mailed to a physical street address not a PO box. That said, how do you climb out of that hole?

    How does one make it out of that precarious situation. In a society that is tech based, just how does one navigate the many roads to elevating oneself.

    To live in the confines of ones home, and look outward and judge. That is a no. And if you have been homeless and climbed out, good for you. Not everyone is the same.

    Solutions are needed, but so is kindness and empathy. I understand that it’s a bad situation, but I also see/ understand the many layers of challenges.

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