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Governor Discusses Homeless Crisis With Local Mayors, Commissioner

BEND, OR -- The Mayors of Bend and Redmond and a Deschutes County Commissioner met Friday with the Governor to discuss the possibility of opening a managed homeless camp outside the Urban Growth Boundary. Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler says the 30-minute conversation was productive, "I think everyone in the region is aligned that this sort of outdoor shelter model is something we’re really lacking. So, it was encouraging to have her be really supportive of that and try to see how we can all work together to achieve that."

Kebler says she looks forward to partnering with the county and state, "I think we have to be willing to look at everything seriously and not let the conversation get derailed before it starts. And I think the Governor was asking us, ‘how can I support you all in doing that?’ And help express to the community how important it is to get a supervised place where people can park their RVs, a place where people can camp outside. Because, if we don’t do that, we get the status quo, which is not acceptable to anybody." She tells KBND News, "We’ve got to have this alternative outdoor shelter option. We can’t just build more congregate shelters in hotels and motels. There’s a population that needs a different solution to stabilize and sort of start moving out of homelessness. I think we have really good alignment on that across all the jurisdictions. It’s just sort of - how do we execute on starting to create those safe places for people to go?"

In a statement emailed to KBND News after the meeting, Governor Tina Kotek said, "We know that homelessness looks different in different parts of the state, and solutions that work for one region may not work for another. I am committed to being a partner across the state to ensure access to safe, clean, shelter for people who need it. I continue to firmly believe that we must exhaust every possible option within the UGB for shelter sites that provide practical options for people experiencing homelessness in Central Oregon like safe park sites and other alternatives to outdoor camping sites particularly as winter approaches. My conversation with local elected county leaders today yielded common ground, and, I hope, a path forward."

Mayor Kebler hopes that "path forward" includes funding to help create a managed camp. She says Bend is ready to be a partner, "Ultimately, it is going to take the local coordination together to get this done. And we’re ready and willing to offer what land and areas we can that we are in charge of, and continue to try to support coming together with the county and the joint office to make something happen as soon as possible."

Kebler is looking ahead to a planned emergency meeting with the Coordinated Houseless Response Office and federal land management agencies to discuss possible options.

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