Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler says she is “shocked and dismayed” after Deschutes County commissioners backed out of a plan to create a managed homeless camp in south Bend.
The board gave its OK to the camp plan last week. The county was supposed to be responsible for finding someone to manage the camp, which would be located just south of the Les Schwab Tire store between 3rd Street and Highway 97.
But in a 2-1 decision Wednesday, the board said it would not move forward with the project. Commissioner Phil Chang was the dissenting vote.
“I believe that there was a significant amount of misinformation about what was being proposed,” said Commissioner Chang.
He added he believes public pushback influenced Anthony DeBone and Patti Adair’s decision to discontinue the county’s partnership with the city.
Among the reasons the board cited for the decision:
- Concerns from the neighborhood about the proposal and lack of community engagement. We recognize that the opportunity for community engagement would come later and be assigned to the service provider selected to operate the program. However, what we heard from the community is the desire to have input on the use of the property, not just the safe parking program.
- Concerns that the $100,000 of County ARPA funds identified by the City to fund a service provider will not adequately cover the costs of the program.
- Residents in south Bend already experience impacts from nearby encampments, including those off of China Hat Road.
The City of Bend now owns that land, recently purchasing it from the Oregon Department of Transportation.
The county provided integral data and ideas to the project, which the city needed to continue with the plans.
“The city relied on information from the county and its decisions about Hunnell Road and we trusted that they were our partners on this solution,” said Kebler.
Commissioner DeBone cautioned Cheyenne Purrington, the leader of the Coordinated Houseless Response Office of Deschutes County, before the vote on how the county has handled the Southside campsite.
“The community wasn’t informed, up to speed, businesses around it, and I’m a partner in this, but yeah we have to be careful about how we are proceeding,” said DeBone.
Purrington declined to comment on the situation, despite Central Oregon Daily asking her for an interview repeatedly.
There is no immediate decision of what this means to the future clearing of camps on Hunnell Road on the north end of town. The camps were going to be cleared on March 16, but that move was put on hold following the announcement to create the camp on the south end of the city.