BEND, OR -- The unsanctioned camp at Hunnell Road, on the north end of Bend, will not be cleared by March 16, as originally planned. City Manager Eric King announced the delay at Wednesday night's City Council meeting, to allow time for development of a managed campsite in southeast Bend approved by County Commissioners Monday. "The city has postponed the complete closure of the Hunnell area until that south Highway 97 site is ready and a service provider is established," King told Councilors and the large crowd, "We’ll continue to support our county partners and nonprofits in providing resources to serve the needs of the people living around Hunnell and other unmanaged camps across the region." He added, "The city and county will develop an agreement on how this land can be managed, and the county will contract with a service provider to manage the site. The work will also include outreach and communication with nearby businesses and residents."
King also said safe parking sites are already open and successful elsewhere in Bend, "We anticipate the Coordinated Houseless Response Office will apply for a safe parking program for this site. That safe parking program requires sites to have supervision and sanitation plans."
His statements did little to dissuade the crowd. Joe Wheeler is the manager of the Les Schwab that will share a driveway with the managed camp, under the city/county plan. He told Bend City Councilors, "[I'm] Concerned about the safety of our crew who park in our parking lot after dark, and we close after dark, a lot of times; and our customers who pick up their vehicles after dark; the sanitation of the facility being right next door, and what is the police’s response to our calls when we call?"
Others shared frustration over the number of projects slated for the south end of town. One neighbor said, "I don’t know why you can’t put these homeless people in the four quadrants of Bend. You’re sticking them all on the south." Another said, "I would invite you to examine the amount of skin you have in the game. You know; I’m assuming none of you live near this proposed homeless camp."
Earlier Wednesday, Deschutes County Commissioners also found themselves forced to address safety concerns brought by neighbors. One resident told the Board, "The biggest issues we have is security and accountability."
Commissioner Phil Chang said the plan would create a different situation than what’s seen at Hunnell Road, "What we are talking about is a managed campsite that has rules of conduct, that has screening, that has management, that has fencing with gates that will be open at a certain point in the morning and closed at a certain point in the night."
Commissioner Tony Debone added, "We’re talking about medically fragile people. People that are looking for help, people that probably want a better situation. The really struggling, trouble-maker types, they’re not going to be told what to do and they’re not even going to go there anyways." And, Commissioner Patti Adair insists the 25-30 campers allowed at the new site would be screened for eligibility, "Apparently, there’s some incredibly vulnerable people living on Hunnell Road. And if that is truly the case then definitely, they should be allowed to go there." Adair says she understands neighbors' worries but believes there will be adequate security at the new camp.
The estimated 100 people living on Hunnell Road will eventually be forced to leave, to allow for construction of the Hunnell Road Extension and North Highway 97 Corridor Project.