Homeless camps around Central Oregon are a complex problem that seem to never have a right answer.
Bend City Council is looking to introduce a new policy to try and manage these camps further regarding public right of ways like streets, sidewalks, and property slotted for public infrastructure.
“We really rely on the people in our community to let us know when they see camping in their community that they’re concerned about,” said City Councilor Megan Perkins.
The current city code allows camping in the city right of ways, but not littering.
“If there’s a camp site that is spilling out into the street or the sidewalk, they do have to move that campsite,” Perkins said.
Camping in different areas not managed by the city are completely off-limits in some cases, like ODOT property.
“We don’t have a way to manage camping and we can’t use our funding to manage camping on right of ways,” said Kacey Davey, ODOT’s Public Information Officer.
Citizens are encouraged under this policy to report said trash, but the term for what littering looks like is determined by the city examining public submissions.
“In the future, we are looking at a camping code,” Perkins said, “What that will do is start to determine the when and the where and the how people can camp.”
According to the city, the new code will be developed over the summer.
Separately, new shelter codes will be debated in the upcoming in-person homeless task force meeting on May 4th.
It will include a public hearing, with the option to email or call in comments.
“We want to acknowledge that there are a lot of businesses and people and neighborhoods that feel negatively impacted by unsanctioned camping,” Perkins said.
City Council is also moving forward to create a Collaborative Houselessness Office meant to strategically address camps.
“At a certain point, we can’t just keep having people kicking the can down the road or moving a couple blocks down the road and that’s why we’re moving to this camping code as a community,” Perkins said.
We reached out to Shepherd’s House for further comment, but they were not available to provide comments at this time.
Community members are encouraged by the city to report concerns regarding littered right of ways by filing a Service Request.