Following the deaths of two people near Hunnell Road in Bend over the hot weekend, the mayor and two councilors from Bend issued a statement sharing insight, and ways to help.
On Tuesday, Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said the deaths were not homicides.
The causes of death have not yet been officially determined and are being investigated by the Deschutes County Medical Examiner, according to the DA.
Families of both deceased Bend residents have been notified of their passing.
The statement is from Bend Mayor Sally Rusell and Councilors Melanie Kebler and Megan Perkins:
We have heard from many in our community your concerns for our vulnerable and unhoused community members during this unprecedented heat wave.
This weekend our community lost two of our neighbors. We all know what it feels like to lose a friend, a family member or someone we know and care about.
These two members of our community both lived unhoused on Hunnell Road. We’re not sharing their names to honor the requests and privacy of their families.
The death of these community members is tragic. Losing them reminds us of the inequities that still exist in our society, and that our systems must do more to address housing accessibility, family violence, trauma experienced by veterans, mental health and addiction disorders, and all of the other root causes that lead to our neighbors living on the streets.
No one should die on the streets of Bend.
As a City and as a Council, we’re working every day to do what we can to tackle these issues and create a future where no person experiences homelessness in our city.
We need our community’s continued support and the support of other leaders in Central Oregon to address these very real issues impacting our community.
Earlier this week, the City declared a local state of emergency to help address the most urgent needs brought on by the excessive heat we’re experiencing.
That emergency order allows us to relax some regulations to respond to the public health crisis brought on by the excessive heat.
Since this heat wave began, the City was in contact with other local public entities and service providers who serve our unhoused community members.
Mosaic Medical has been to Hunnell Road. Central Oregon Veterans Outreach has been at the site. Cascades East Transit sent a bus out so people can sit in an air conditioned space.
Those are just a few of the many organizations that, along with numerous community members and volunteers, are coming together to respond to this crisis.
Coordination with other local public agencies and service providers has also resulted in opening emergency cooling centers in Bend.
One of those centers is at the low-barrier shelter, which the City helped fund to re-open earlier this month. Those cooling centers have been supplied and staffed by the incredible contributions of our community members. For that we are incredibly grateful.
While we know the safest strategy for vulnerable community members is to get into cooling centers, we also know some people don’t want to leave their possessions behind to go to a center.
To help with that, the City is providing temporary storage facilities at the Troy Field Parking Lot. We can store people’s belongings in a secure facility so they can go to a cooling center during the heat wave.
The emergency declaration has allowed our Utility Department to set up two cooling tents with misters in the right-of-way on Hunnell Road, using water from fire hydrants.
The City has also provided coolers with ice and water at the tents, and plans to leave the cooling tents in place for the duration of the local emergency.
This week’s emergency order could also be used to provide additional shelter capacity in the event that the low-barrier shelter (275 NE Second Street) reaches capacity. It currently has about 17 beds available during the day for cooling and at night for a safe place to sleep.
If you want to help, the Homeless Leadership Coalition is a good place to start.
They have information for ways to volunteer or donate supplies.
If you can help provide a meal at the low-barrier shelter, you can sign up for the Shepherd’s House Meal Train.
Those are just a couple of the many ways you can get involved with service providers and mutual aid groups to respond to this emergency.
And after this emergency, the work doesn’t end. You can keep helping our most vulnerable community members.
You can help us find solutions to increase affordable housing options in Bend. You can help us find places to provide shelter for our friends and neighbors who need it most.
You can continue pushing your local and regional elected officials to respond to the housing crisis and to find new ways to care for our unhoused community members. We will continue to listen and strive for equity and justice for everyone in Bend.
This is a call to action. Our community lost two of its own on the streets of Bend this week.
By working together we can ensure that this tragedy never occurs again.