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Neighbors voice concerns over proposed Juniper Ridge temporary homeless camp

'This is like opening Pandora's box,' one says

BEND, Ore (KTVZ) -- The city of Bend is meeting with nonprofits and neighborhood groups to discuss the Juniper Ridge homeless problem and, as one part of the answer, a proposed temporary camp -- which is drawing fire from several neighbors.

Despite the city's efforts, it appears many neighbors in the surrounding area are worried for the safety of their community and families. Several raised their concerns during the visitors section of Wednesday night's city council meeting.

Gregg Collins of Bend spoke with NewsChannel 21 on Thursday to express his concerns with the city's exploration of a possible temporary homeless shelter at Juniper Ridge, which would be managed and run by city partners.

"This is like opening Pandora's box," Collins said. "We need to help them, but putting them out in the brush with no services is not the answer."

Collins said he hopes the city can help the homeless get back on their feet, but the recent fires in the area and lack of assistance resources near the property are a problem the proposal could worsen, not resolve.

"It's going to be a mess for the entire neighborhood," Collins said. "Like I said, we have to help the homeless, but I think the quality of life within Boyd Acres (neighborhood) is going to suffer severely."

Months ago, the city ordered homeless campers to move off the property in northeast Bend as a big sewer project began.

But after two summer incidents threatened railroad crossing shutdowns, one after a major wildfire, new moves are afoot.

Bend Director of Economic Development Carolyn Eagan said Thursday the location by Cooley Road -- the likely future site of a city Public Works facility -- is just one of many sites that the city is looking at, but would not give specifics on those locations.

Coincidentally, the city council late Wednesday approved a $6.5 million sale of the current Public Works site on Boyd Acres Road to the Bend Park and Rec District, with a goal of making the move by 2025.

"We are exploring probably a dozen other sites throughout the city that do meet more of the criteria that the neighbors are expressing as being better attributes for a site," Eagan said.

Eagan said she appreciates the feedback from neighbors, and many of the problems they have addressed are equally shared by the city.

The city's proposed short-term plan is to create a transitional campsite with RVs and tents on the south end of the property.

Bend City Manager Eric King said meetings have already begun with nonprofits and neighborhood groups to help facilitate these plans.

Collins said he hopes the city can find the proper location to help transition those who are homeless.

"Are we helping, or are we just trying to put them out of sight or out of mind?" Collins said. "There's got to be a better option than this."

The council, coincidentally, also heard from the Juniper Ridge Management Advisory Board Wednesday evening about a proposed three-phase effort to refashion the 500 acres -- given to the city by Deschutes County for $1 30 years ago -- and make it more attractive to business investments, as long-standing road and sewer issues are resolved.

They also gave the nod to explore an increase in the city's affordable housing fee (construction excise tax) -- which Bend was the first city to adopt, in 2006. New state laws allow an increase that could go, among other things, to funding services for homeless residents.

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Alec Nolan

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


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