It’s a complicated issue with an even more complex solution, but the City of Bend is taking steps to clean up at least one homeless camp in the city limits.
The Bend City Council on Wednesday night approved a new policy that lets them close down a growing homeless camp at NE 2nd and Emerson streets in Bend.
The action is limited to that one homeless camp and requires the involvement of social support services to help the campers relocate.
City staff is required to notify social service providers two weeks before the closure and cleanup of the two dozen campsites along Emerson Street near downtown Bend.
The first of those notifications to leave the area will likely be issued the week of June 7th.
“The evidence we have assembled on that location is that it’s not safe, both for those that are camping and the surrounding area,” said Eric King, Bend City Manager. “There’re some criteria that were part of that policy and a matrix to walk through in terms of calls for service for types of incidents that are occurring in that area.”
Campers I spoke to in the area said they don’t want to move, and they’ll need more than two weeks’ notice to make new living arrangements.
The city will store any personal property that gets left behind for 30 days for people to claim.
“We have all kind of known that something was going to come whether it was a cleanup or a closure,” said Colleen Thomas of the Homeless Leadership Coalition. “I don’t think we give enough credit to those that are experiencing homelessness. They know something is coming and they’ve been really proactive on trying to clean up and work with service providers to figure out what’s next.”
“Hopefully our community will rally up and start breaking free with some buildings, some land, some parking spaces,” said Donna Burklo of Family Kitchen. “We have a fabulous program already in place called Safe Haven parking. We could be doing much more if we just had parking lots available to us.”
King says progress is being made to help the homeless with increased shelter capacity, and word that funding for a second low barrier shelter is likely to come through.
He said the closure of homeless camps on Emerson Street is not a one-and-done solution.