BEND, OR -- Four days after the closure of Hunnell Road, Bend City Councilors continue to field questions and criticism about the decision to clear camps in the area. More than a dozen people spoke at this week’s Council meeting, including comments about the "insane policy of moving vulnerable people from one place to another, without regard to any possible, reasonable objective," from one Bend resident, who slammed the table saying, "Please stop it!" Others accused Councilors of profiting off the sweep. "The decision was obviously based on money, so how much was spent? How much do you plan to spend? Is anybody benefitting?" asked one woman. Another said, "I know the city of Bend was given money to get supervised homeless camps or shelters. I’m not the only one, just, where’s it at?" A man attending virtually said, "The research shows that this is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Scientific research shows that these sweeps lead to more death."
City Manager Eric King tells KBND News a million dollars in state money for emergency housing was just approved for Bend and will help pay for shelter operations. But, he says, "We’ve got work to do. But I still feel that we do need to make sure that one of our duties is to protect our public rights of way. And safety, in particular, is one of our core services."
He says recent court decisions set firm guidelines on enforcement of camping codes, "We’re anticipating that that case gets heard before the Supreme Court. We all are struggling, as cities, as to how to handle this issue. I think we see the impacts of camping in our rights of way and public property. And, we do provide opportunities for housing, but we don’t provide social services. Cities typically aren’t providing addiction services or behavioral health, things like that."
While cleanup continues, several campers remain on Hunnell Road. They were granted an extra seven days after Monday night’s deadline, through the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Photo: Several people attending Wednesday's City Council meeting held up signs protesting the clearing and closure of Hunnell Road.