BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners and Bend City Councilors got an update on efforts to clean up Juniper Ridge, during a joint meeting Tuesday. Work began months ago to address code violations in an area prone to unsanctioned camping.
Deputy County Administrator Erik Kropp told the groups a contractor is working on both city and county-owned property, "There are approximately 30 abandoned camps, and we’ve cleaned up most of those. We’ve also cleaned up or had BioSolutions clean up the burned out camps, which is about two. So, we’re still working on some abandoned camps and burned camps. There remain approximately 17 occupied camps. And those camps are really going to be difficult to come into code compliance with the people living there." He says they'll next work to remove the unknown number of abandoned vehicles. "BioSolutions has cleaned up 225,000 pounds of waste. That includes both having the big dumpsters out there, they also hand out the yellow garbage bags so the people living there can dispose of the waste. And that’s about 133 cubic yards of waste."
An estimated 200 people are still camping in the area, utilizing drinking water stations and portable toilets provided by the county. Commissioner Phil Chang is concerned about the lack of an exit strategy, "The longer we provide these minimal stabilization services for people at Juniper Ridge, the more gray it becomes for the public - ‘so, is this a managed camp?’ No, this is not a managed camp. It does not have the case management and the wrap-around services."
Kropp agreed, "This doesn’t get people out of homelessness. What I see that could be beneficial with this model is: you start out with the basic supports, so the problem’s not getting worse. Or, at least, in terms of providing people with basic services and impact on public lands. So you put in this basic support with a notice of a date when they need to relocate, and have a place for them to go."
A legally viable location for a managed camp has yet to be determined.