A proposed campsite for the houseless has grown into a hotbed of concern among locals this week.
Much of the public stood in opposition to the proposed site off NE 9th St. near Bend High School at Wednesday’s Bend City Council meeting.
“I would hope that you guys would reconsider this, as we don’t see homeless camps of any kind being part of school campuses,” Bend High teacher and football coach Matt Craven said during the visitors section.
Councilor Megan Perkins says the decision isn’t set in stone.
“We are still in conversations with people all over this community in order to find as many spots and locations as we can,” she said. “This was just one that we thought we could transition a little bit more quickly than other locations.”
The council was taken off guard by the backlash.
“In retrospect, we probably could have done this a little bit differently, in the sense of working with the community first before sort of announcing this,” Perkins said. “I totally understand that community members’ alarm bells went off, like ‘woah, this is happening without our consent and our input!'”
Deschutes County Commissioners met with councilors Thursday to discuss housing projects, including the proposed plot of land.
“In retrospect, we probably could have done this a little bit differently, in the sense of working with the community first before sort of announcing this.” – Bend City Councilor Megan Perkins
“Because of COVID, and because of that economic strain on some parts of our community, our homeless/houseless population has just accelerated faster than we’ve ever seen,” Mayor Sally Russell said to commissioners. “So that’s the urgency to move quickly, and we really do need your partnership.”
Commissioners had already agreed to spend $1.5 million dollars for the creation of sites, and they affirmed their commitment to housing projects moving forward.
“We can’t let it get worse, we have to bring it back and make it better,” Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone said. “It’s COVID right now too, so we’ve got to remember that. There’s layers of stressors in our world right now.”
Perkins says they’ll continue to gather feedback from the community before making a choice.
“I plan on going out there tomorrow and kind of walking around the area and talking to people around the area myself, just to get a feel for what people are saying to me, because when we have that many people that have expressed concerns, it’s very important to listen,” she said.