New City of Bend Administrative Policy Helps Determine When to Remove Unsafe Campsites 

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New Property Management Policy

City Council recently approved an administrative policy that sets out steps and procedures the City will use to determine when to remove or manage established campsites on City rights-of-way.

The policy 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 the safety of those individuals residing or camping at a location.

The policy will be initially used in response to growing concerns about a concentrated group of established campsites along NE Emerson Avenue, between Third Street and U.S. 97, creating public health and safety issues for the people camping there and nearby residents, businesses and the traveling public.

According to the new Management and Removal of Established Campsites in City Rights-of-way policy, when a segment or portion of a City right-of-way is being used as an established campsite and poses a threat to public safety and use of the right-of-way, the City can deem it an “unsafe campsite.” An impact analysis identified the unsafe campsite using evaluation criteria such as the number of Police Department calls for service, violations of laws or codes and encroachment on travel lanes.

Emerson Avenue

The location along Emerson Avenue has been identified as an unsafe campsite. At the June 2 City Council meeting, Councilors said they wanted to ensure the new policy is only implemented in the Emerson area, until the City has an opportunity to get feedback on this effort and assess whether the policy needs to change before considering applying it elsewhere.

“Providing for the safety of our unhoused community members and the traveling public is the City’s top priority in addressing what’s happening at Emerson Avenue,” said City Manager Eric King. “We are grateful to be working with trusted partners to support our unhoused community members as we work to provide safe alternatives to camping in the right-of-way.”

As part of the City’s overall plan to address homelessness, the City recently partnered with  NeighborImpact to open a 70-bed, low-barrier shelter for unhoused community members. The Shepherd’s House operates the shelter at 275 NE Second Street. Here is a recent press release about that shelter opening.

Along with approval of the policy, Councilors requested that staff provide two weeks’ notice to service providers before removing established, unsafe campsites. The intention to address the safety concerns in the Emerson area was relayed to service providers on Monday, June 7. 

The City has coordinated with REACH, SHARE Project of Shepherd’s House, Deschutes County Homeless Outreach and other service providers to connect individuals and families to available resources through local service providers and agencies.

Next Steps

This morning, the City provided official notice to those camping along Emerson Avenue of the need to vacate by June 23. On the morning of June 23, City crews and contractors will close portions of Second Street and Emerson Avenue and begin cleaning the area and restoring the right-of-way. Access to the area will be limited to service providers, City officials and contractors.

During camp clean-up and restoration, a safe observation area will be provided at the eastern end of the Second Street and Emerson Avenue intersection for First Amendment expressions and media.

Personal property remaining in the right-of-way after people relocate from the closed area will be stored near City Hall and available for pick-up by contacting City administration at City Hall, according to City administrative policy and in compliance with State law. People who leave the rights-of-way may choose to relocate temporarily to the low-barrier shelter located at 275 NE Second Street.

Once the unsafe campsite has been cleaned and restored, sections of Emerson Avenue will be posted as a no parking area to provide for safe access to the right-of-way and businesses.

Homelessness in Central Oregon and Council Goals

There are nearly 1,000 people experiencing homelessness in Central Oregon on any given night. This number includes families with children and youths who do not live with an adult. Learn more in Central Oregon Homelessness Facts & Figures.

To help address issues related to homelessness, the Bend City Council has adopted a strategy to “Invest in programs and partnerships that result in collaborative, concrete actions toward ending homelessness in Bend,” as part of its 2021-2023 Council Goals. That strategy includes creating a five-year Action Plan, exploring and increasing funding sources, and expanding options for temporary or permanent housing.

Supporting Houselessness Solutions

The City of Bend is working with public agencies and community partners to support solutions for houselessness in the Bend community. This includes finding ways to keep people in their homes, provide temporary transitional housing and shelters, and increase the availability of affordable housing. Recently, the City Council adopted a Safe Parking Program to allow limited overnight parking in certain locations for people experiencing homelessness and updated the Bend Development Code to allow temporary housing (shelters) in some commercial zones in Bend. The City is in the process of applying for a grant from the State-funded Project Turnkey to convert a motel into a shelter for people who are unhoused. The State legislature has approved $2.5 million in funding to open a navigation center in Bend to support unhoused community members. At its June 16 meeting, City Council directed staff to enter into a purchase and sale agreement of the property located at 275 NE Second Street to establish a permanent low-barrier shelter at the location of a seasonal shelter. The Sounding Board to House Our Neighbors is working with City staff to make recommendations to update the Bend Development Code to allow for the development of different shelter types in certain zoning districts.

To learn more about the City’s efforts, visit bendoregon.gov/homelessness

For information on how you can support the organizations engaged in this effort, visit shepherdshouseministries.org, reachoutcentraloregon.org or cohomeless.org.

bendoregon.gov

 

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