City of Bend News Release – Homelessness Update 10/05/2022
Bend City Council Houselessness Update 10/5/22
Here is Councilor Megan Perkins’ housing update from 10/5/2022:
As one piece of a comprehensive plan to address houselessness, the Bend City Council has been working since June to develop a code to regulate how, where and when people can camp in the public right-of-way, like streets and sidewalks.
Last week, the Council heard from several important community stakeholders about our proposed camping code. These stakeholders included City advisory committees, the Coordinated Homeless Response Office–which is a joint effort between the City and Deschutes County–nonprofit leaders, people with lived experience and who are camping for survival, not recreation, the business community and other public agencies.
The Council was grateful to be able to have this conversation in a new format, which allowed more of a dialogue between us and the community than traditional public comment.
We received an expansive amount of feedback, but here are a few highlights.
We heard that more resources are needed to support the code, such as more shelter beds and designated camping spots, as well as basic needs like washing stations and bathrooms and mental health supports.
We heard how important it is to make sure that whatever regulations we pass have safety in mind, for those who are unsheltered as well as for businesses and their employees and housed neighbors.
We heard about the importance of having storage for folks who often don’t have a safe place to store important items during the day while they go to work or look to have their basic needs met.
We heard the need to create a centralized system that shows when and where shelter beds are available, as well as the importance of a system that ensures continuous improvement.
We heard that this code needs to be regularly reviewed and adjusted as we learn more about what works and what doesn’t.
More than anything, we heard a call for clarity. Where people can camp needs to be as clear as where they can’t.
We were asked to consider 1,000 foot buffers around recycling centers and the Rainbow Hotel, while also hearing from the Bend La Pine School District a similar buffer would not be an effective solution given that children walking to school walk a distance longer than the buffer zone to get to and from their homes.
In addition to the roundtables, we also heard from the community in a variety of other ways, including through emails and informational open houses.
Community members told us their concerns about the need for having safer options for sleeping and living, as it is not healthy for anyone to sleep in the public right of way.
We heard concerns about what enforcement will look like, such as who will enact it and how to avoid bias. There were also concerns around allowing vehicles to be used for overnight stays in residential neighborhoods.
Above all, we heard from a community that is interested in and committed to finding solutions. We face a challenge that is complex in nature. Solutions to address it will need to be as expansive and diverse as the community we serve.
Earlier tonight, during our work session, Council focused on three of the big concerns that came out of all of our public feedback: the concept of time in the code (how long can people camp), the plan for enforcement or compliance, and the supportive structures that need to be in place so that this code can be followed. A majority of Council agreed with the Mayor’s recommendations for moving forward which include a companion resolution and a focus on voluntary compliance among other items. The discussion of time proved to be more complicated and we directed the City Manager and the legal team to prepare some time options and criteria for a future special meeting, roundtable and/or a subcommittee meeting.
Our community will have further opportunities to provide input by joining for public comment at our business meetings and likely a public hearing in November on this very topic. You are also always invited to write us with your thoughts at email@example.com.
-Councilor Megan Perkins