Deschutes County’s new homeless camping code will take effect in 90 days. However, nobody will be forced to vacate campsites on county public property yet, because the county must first have a place to send them.
“For this code to work, we have to have some alternate shelter sites to direct people to,” said David Doyle, Deschutes County chief legal counsel. “I think in light of the populations we have on the DSL land, on the Juniper Ridge Dirt World property and, potentially, if there’s any extension for China Hat and the federal properties, the 2- and 3-acre properties that have been addressed, probably aren’t going to suffice.”
The second reading on Deschutes County’s new camping code by the Board of Commissioners Wednesday means the ordinance will take effect in early November.
Commissioners unanimously approved the second reading, setting the clock in motion. But until there are managed camps for people to move to, none of the homeless currently living on county land will be forced to leave.
“Drinking water was put out late last week. Portable toilets are there as well. We want to get those supports to clean up the area,” said Erik Kropp, Deschutes County Deputy Administrator. “Next steps are wait until board direction on sighting a managed camp or supported camp. Otherwise if we required people to leave, they would relocate to other public lands and the problem would persist.”
We toured Juniper Ridge, an area where an estimated 150 homeless people are living. Some abandoned campsites have been cleaned up by an environmental contractor hired by the county. Drinking water and portable toilets have been installed to address concerns of public health and safety.
“We’ve heard they appreciate the support services. The people living there don’t want to damage the land so by having the Dumpsters helps prevent that. Having the drinking water and portable toilets certainly helps with their living conditions,” Kropp said.
Commissioner Phil Chang said approving the second reading of the camping code forces Deschutes County to get focused and make alternative camping sites happen sooner than later.