People living in tents and other temporary shelters along Southeast Emerson Avenue in Bend were forced to leave Wednesday as crews began a clean up effort.
The closure of Emerson could last several days and raises questions about where displaced campers will go next.
Notices to vacate the Emerson Avenue right of way were posted two weeks ago and took effect Wednesday morning.
But that didn’t prevent some chaotic moments as people tried to enter the closed area.
“They wanted us to leave. They made it where I lost everything. My tent and everything,” said Tonya Roberts, one of about 40 displaced campers. “I couldn’t move it. I’m by myself. I’m a mess. My back’s hurt. I lost everything I had.”
“It’s inhumane to do this. Any of us could be in this situation after one unfortunate accident,” said Luke Richter of the Central Oregon Peacekeepers. “We need to treat these people as humans because they are members of the community and they deserve to have their voices heard.”
A small group of Central Oregon Peacekeepers led protests against the eviction while campers wondered what they’ll do next.
“I’m hoping to find a spot to put up a tent. Somebody gave me a tent,” Roberts said.
Some of the Peacekeepers heckled and hurled profanities at Bend Police officers stationed just beyond a barricade set up near the area.
One of the Peacekeepers, who identified herself as only Cat, mocked the officers as they put on sunscreen.
She offered the officers trash bags, imploring them to help clean up the area.
Meanwhile, some of the transients in the area thanked the social services agencies who’ve been helping the process.
“They have done an excellent job reaching out to people in need. They’ve kept me afloat,” said Scott Garrow, one of the transients. “They’ve kept me with food, with clothes and the necessities to keep me trucking, not happily but I’ve been surviving.”
The city of Bend invested half a million dollars to open a year-round low barrier shelter last month.
“At last count, there are 30 beds available. Counting the camps that were left today, there’s less campers than beds available so there’s capacity there,” said Jon Skidmore, Assistant Bend City Manager. “That’s our hope is that they are moving to someplace safe. Where they choose to go is inevitably their choice.”
The question of where the Emerson Avenue campers go next is to be answered by those individuals themselves.
All parties involved have been saying hopefully somewhere safe.
In the meantime, items that were left behind will be stored in cargo containers at Troy Field near City Hall. They will be accessible to people who want to reclaim their personal effects.