Local News

County Backs Out Of Plan For Bend Managed Camp

BEND, OR -- In a sudden reversal Wednesday, Deschutes County Commissioners pulled support of a proposed managed homeless camp on city-owned property at Murphy Road and Highway 97. Commissioners initially agreed, last week, to contract with a service provider to manage the site. 

"I’d like to not accept Bend’s request for citing on that one-acre parcel and cease and desist from looking for opportunities right now," said Commission Chair Tony DeBone. He and Commissioner Patti Adair cited the outcry from neighbors at recent city and county meetings. "I’m not supportive of proceeding with the one-acre site owned by the city of Bend. It’s just a terrible location; we’ve had lots of great community response. A lot of negative response directly towards us and City Council," said DeBone, "I’m fully comfortable in just letting the city put something there if they want, but we don’t need to get near that."

Adair added, "It sounds like there are plenty of homeless people already in south Bend." At Wednesday's meeting, she said the medically fragile campers at NE Hunnell Road should seek shelter at the Bethlehem Inn. Commissioner Phil Chang pointed out the Inn has a work-search requirement and said medically disabled people can't look for a job. Adair responded, "I'm sure that they can make an exception."

Following a staff presentation on a potential timeline for securing a service provider and discussion by Commissioners, DeBone said, "I’m comfortable informing the city of Bend that we’ve changed our mind and we need to regroup on this whole thing." The final vote was 2-1, with Chang opposing.

Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler says the city was blindsided by the decision, since the Commissioner's meeting agenda only stated they were getting an update from staff, "With some timelines about, ‘OK, we’re going to put out a request for information from service providers to see who might be the service provider who could lead this project.’ Then we would have an intergovernmental agreement. We were expecting the timeline to move forward, not a sudden, abrupt halt and yanking it off the table." She says the city was notified of their decision with an emailed letter from DeBone and Adair after the meeting.

Kebler says those campers were to receive addiction, mental and behavioral health treatment - services provided by public health, which is governed by County Commissioners, "Instead, Commissioner DeBone and Adair have abruptly taken this option away, without any attempted discussion with their city leaders before abandoning this collaboration."

The city delayed plans to clear campers from Hunnell Road last week, Kebler says that decision came only after several meetings with the county about the plan for the managed camp on the south end, "The safe parking opportunity was designed to get vulnerable, medically fragile people into a better situation so we can reduce unsanctioned camping and they can get off the street." She added, "The city relied on information from the county in its decisions about Hunnell Road, and we trusted that they were our partners on this solution."

At a Wednesday afternoon press confrence, she added, "The county abandoned this pilot project before it even began, and has provided no alternate site or concrete options for the short-term solutions that we know we need right now." Kebler says the city is committed to moving forward but is unsure how that will happen. 

She’s urging Commissioners to reconsider and says it’s unclear what it means for the unsanctioned camp on Hunnell Road.


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