Bend City Council Houselessness Update

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Because of the broad community interest in housing and houselessness, the City Council added a standing agenda item to Council business meetings to provide regular updates on City Council’s work on addressing houselessness.

Megan Perkins’ Council Update February 16, 2022

I want to start with a big thank you to the service providers who are doing the hard work to serve members of the community who are experiencing houselessness. In particular, sincere thanks to staff at NeighborImpact and Shepherds House for all the work they’re doing to manage shelter facilities.

Adding shelter capacity is part of the City’s strategy to address houselessness in Bend and will allow us to better manage camping on our streets and sidewalks.

We have great news to share:  The Division Street shelter opened on February 7. Thank you to all the people who made this possible. The City bought this temporary shelter on Division Street with grant funds, and NeighborImpact is operating it. It will add up to 40 additional shelter beds. This additional capacity will help relieve pressure on the shelter managed by Shephard’s House at Second Street.

The Second Street shelter — a designated permanent warming shelter — has capacity for 90 beds, and it’s been pretty full, despite what you might have heard recently. There were shelter beds open when the shelter first opened in June and over the summer. But, since December there have been more nights when demand for places to sleep exceeds the 90 beds that are available at Second Street. There have only been six nights in the past six weeks with ANY capacity at all and that was just a handful of beds.

Developing shelter capacity has to happen before the City can remove camps on public lands. Due to federal court rulings, a city’s ability to regulate sleeping in its public places is related to a community’s ability to provide shelter for homeless individuals who might otherwise need to use public places to sleep. We are working toward having enough capacity that we can more effectively regulate and manage camping on public lands in the City.

It is a false narrative to tell our community that we have the capacity to house all the people on our streets right now. Roughly 70 percent of our houseless population still remain unsheltered, based on the most recent data. We can and must do better for everybody by increasing shelter capacity.

The City has a multi-faceted strategy well under way to increase shelter bed capacity and to collaborate with and support the providers who serve the community.

Another piece of the strategy is to consider proposed development code changes to provide more options for various types of shelters to be built in most zoning districts around Bend. This code development is underway and is recently in the public input phase before the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission will be meeting again on Tuesday, February 22 to discuss these changes.

As you may recall, the City of Bend is looking into possible locations for temporary outdoor shelters for unhoused community members in Bend. Negotiations are still underway for a contract with service providers to operate outdoor shelters.

Please note: we don’t have the locations chosen but I want to take this moment to assure you that we are listening to your concerns, and we hear you when you call into Council meetings and write us emails. I can tell you that the Ninth Street location and the Juniper Ridge location are not currently being considered for this outdoor shelter proposal at this time.

Lastly, there are promising efforts underway to secure additional funding from the state to address needs:

This past week, the legislation to fund the start-up of a Collaborative City/County Office on Homelessness was approved. It’s moving quickly through the committee process at the state legislature. This will provide $1 million of start-up funding for our community to launch the Strategic Plan developed by the Emergency Homelessness Task Force.

Also, the mid-sized cities of Oregon, a coalition Bend helped to build during the pandemic, has organized an effort to get additional state funding to assist in responding to the homelessness crisis.  Those cities are seeking a total package of $50 million. If approved, this $50 million request would be apportioned by population and Bend would receive $2.96 million.

This could be used on things like:

  • Acquiring and rehabilitating emergency shelters and safe sleep sites
  • Operating emergency shelters and safe sleep sites
  • Removing debris from abandoned camps
  • Supporting services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, including housing navigation, medical, behavioral health and mental health care
  • Enhancing resources for cities and non-profit partners for houseless service provision
  • Culturally-appropriate programs that stabilize individuals and families through food assistance, supportive service information and referrals
  • Supporting community engagement and education

This funding cannot be used to sweep homeless camps or for other law enforcement efforts related to houselessness.

If you’d like to know more about the city’s comprehensive plan to address houselessness go to bendoregon.gov/houselessness.

And thank you to all of you who care about this issue and have come to us with your solutions and opinions. Together we can get people off of our streets and into safe and managed shelter.

~Councilor Megan Perkins

Accommodation Information for People with Disabilities
To obtain this information in an alternate format such as Braille, large print, electronic formats, etc. please contact Anne Aurand at aaurand@bendoregon.gov or 541-388-5573; Relay Users Dial 7-1-1.

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