REDMOND, OR -- With pre-eviction notices now in place near a large homeless camp east of Redmond, a group of advocates met Wednesday to discuss how to help the transients who remain. Central Oregon Veterans Outreach Executive Director JW Terry has spent a lot of time in the camp and says some live in squalor while others keep a pristine camp. And each have their own reason for living there, "A lot of them would accept the help but they still have high barriers - whether it's the mental challenge or the addiction challenge, or whatever."
Despite some official estimates that say 30-40 people are living on the property owned by the Central Oregon Irrigation District (COID) and the Redmond School District, Terry believes that number is really over 100. The county's notices say anyone left after June fourth could be subject to law enforcement action. Police Chief Dave Tarbet says evicting such a large area has never been done before in Redmond, "We've had camps on private property elsewhere in the city that we've had to ask people to move but we just simply tell them they're trespassing and they need to move, and they do."
Matt Searfus, with the Homeless Leadership Coalition, says the property owners have been more than patient, given the trash, vandalism and illegal activity that's taken place in recent years. "Anybody who owns land and has someone staying on it illegally reaches a point where they would say 'I've done all I can, it's time for someone else to deal with this'." But, he tells KBND News without a plan in place prior to the eviction the problem will simply shift. "I think that's historically what happens. If you move them off one piece of property, they'll go to another. They'll just keep on moving. And, then eventually along the way, there are some who will accept services - some will realized this is not the life they want to be living; that's what we hope for. But, we're going to see people who are just going to disappear again."
At Wednesday's meeting, representatives from agencies like the Shepherd's House
and Jericho Road
agreed the best short-term solution is to create a temporary shelter or emergency evacuation center. Searfus says they hope the property owners will give them a little more time, "While we look for a facility for temporary staging, for those who are being forced off who would like help, to try and figure out what's next for them." He admits there's no perfect solution and even a temporary shelter could be problematic, "Who hosts it? Who has the ability to say 'use our facility for this purpose for this time'?" He says the long-term goal is to create a homeless shelter in Redmond. Currently, various Redmond churches host a cold-weather overnight shelter in the winter.
If an extension isn't granted, JW Terry plans to have COVO volunteers standing by in the area on Tuesday when the trespassing order takes effect, to help anyone they can, "I have my fingers crossed I'm taking worst case scenario. I don't want to see anyone hurt in it." Searfus points out the camp is a symptom of bigger issues with housing and mental health, "It's not a new camp; it's not unique to Redmond or Deschutes County. It's a nationwide problem, becoming more of a worldwide problem."