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City of Madras closes Willow Creek homeless campsite, provides alternative, authorized camping site near shelter

(Update: adding city of Madras statement on new authorized camping area, property recovery)

MADRAS, Ore. (KTVZ) – The City of Madras announced Friday the planned closure of the homeless camp located in the Northwest Willow Creek Camping Area, effective 7 a.m. Tuesday, followed by remediation efforts, and the establishment of an authorized camping area in the city.

"City officials will be on-site to facilitate the closure and ensure a smooth transition for individuals residing in the camp," the city said.

As of Monday, 10-15 homeless individuals resided at the site.

"January 11th of 2024, the Madras Homeless Service Center opened, which then provided the city a turnaround for homeless individuals to seek shelter at," said Nick Snead, community development director with the City of Madras. "Prior to then, we didn't have that shelter or alternative location under the current law."

The site is about 1,000 feet from Willow Creek, which city officials tell me has been littered with trash and human waste over the last 3 1/2 years. This has prompted concern and the need to rehabilitate the creek and surrounding environment.

"It's within the 1,000 feet of the city's backup domestic water well," Snead said. "So with that level of waste there next to a well, that was something we needed to close, as well as just the sheer amount of waste in the camp in itself."

Next to the new Madras homeless shelter, the city authorized a temporary camping area  for residents who've been removed from the Willow Creek Campground. 

"We've heard from individuals say they like to camp at the alternative campsite, go get dinner at the shelter a couple hundred feet away, use the restroom, their shower, and then camp," Snead said.

Individuals have the option to live at the 25-bed shelter or at the campsite next door, but they must remove their items from the site, daily. The Madras shelter has shower facilities and access to social service.

"Employment is something they really need, but a meal, a place to stay the night and bathe and do some professional development for, you know, resume-building and things like that would really help them out," Snead said. "That shelter provides all those services there."

Officials helping with the transition have been giving notice to people living in the camp for over two months. They've informed them of the available resources to food, medical care, and social services, as well as alternative camping.

"So on June 11th, when the camp is closed, they're not surprised," Snead said. "They know all the resources that are available for them. They know where they can go to to seek alternative shelter and really make this transition go a lot smoother."

The city has already removed 80,000 pounds of trash. They expect to remove an additional 10-20 truck loads during the camp closure. 

Here's a statement the city issued Tuesday morning:

City of Madras Establishes Oak Street Authorized Camping Area and Unclaimed Property Storage Procedure

Madras, Oregon - The City of Madras has established the Oak Street Authorized Camping Area (referred to as 3rd Street Camping Area in Ordinance No. 976), located at 99 NW Oak Street, Madras. Positioned at the corner of Oak and 3rd Street, adjacent to the Homeless Shelter on Oak Street, this designated camping area aims to provide a safe and regulated space for overnight stays.

Effective immediately, and in accordance with Madras Municipal Code (“MMC”) Chapter 9.30, the Oak Street Authorized Camping Area will operate under established rules and regulations. These regulations include limiting camping to tents and tarps within defined areas, restricting obstructions of sidewalks, limiting personal property, prohibiting open flames, and enforcing fines for violations. Overnight camping is permitted from one hour before sunset until one hour after sunrise each day. The area will be closely monitored to ensure compliance with regulations and to maintain a secure environment for all occupants.

In conjunction with the establishment of the Oak Street Authorized Camping Area, the Northwest Willow Creek Camping Area will be closed as of June 11, 2024, at 7:00 a.m. Any personal belongings that can be stored per Resolution No. 09-2024 and are left unclaimed at this location will be securely stored by the City of Madras. To retrieve personal property, individuals must schedule an appointment in advance; drop-in visits will not be accommodated.

City staff will facilitate appointments for property retrieval at the City Storage Facility located next to the Oak Street Authorized Camping Area. Those needing to claim their belongings are required to contact the City Storage Facility at (541) 475-2344 Ext. 3 or via call/text at (541) 647-8957 during business hours, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to arrange an appointment at least 24 hours in advance.

Unclaimed personal property that can be stored will be held for a period of 30 days, after which it will be disposed of or donated. Individuals requiring an extended storage option are encouraged to contact the City’s Storage Facility to discuss available arrangements.

For further information or to schedule an appointment for property retrieval, please contact the City of Madras at the provided phone numbers.

The city's original announcement continues in full below:

"The decision to close the Northwest Willow Creek Camping Area comes after careful consideration and evaluation of various factors, including concerns regarding public health, environmental impact, and safety hazards associated with the camp's location. The closure is part of the city's ongoing efforts to address the challenges faced by individuals experiencing houselessness while also prioritizing the well-being of the community and the environment.

"Following the closure of the camp, remediation efforts will commence to restore the Willow Creek area. The city is committed to clearing out debris and other waste accumulated in the vicinity of the camp, as well as implementing measures to rehabilitate the creek and surrounding environment.

"In conjunction with the closure of the Northwest Willow Creek Camping Area, the City of Madras has established an authorized camping area in the city right-of-way at the corner of Oak and 3rd Streets, adjacent to the Madras Homeless Services Center. This designated camping area will provide a safe and secure space for individuals in need of temporary shelter, with access to essential services and support.

"The City of Madras would like to reassure the public that measures are being implemented to facilitate a smooth transition for individuals affected by the closure of the Northwest Willow Creek homeless camp. City officials will work closely with local service providers and outreach organizations to offer support and assistance to those in need.

"For more information about the closure of the Northwest Willow Creek Camping Area and remediation efforts, please contact the City of Madras at 541-475-2344."

Article Topic Follows: Madras

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Matthew Draxton

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