City of Bend News Release – Homelessness Update 11/02/2022
Bend City Council Houselessness Update 11/2/22
Last week, Council held a special meeting to discuss the proposed Camping Code to regulate when, where, and how people experiencing houselessness may use City rights-of-way for survival sheltering.
I want to talk with you now about the development of that code, specifically regarding our timeline and the changes we’ve made so far.
Council first started talking about the development of a code to regulate camping in public rights of way in June. The real work of providing solutions for our unhoused community members, though, has been underway for the past two years. We’re rapidly approaching our two-year goal of adding 500 shelter beds. That critical piece of capacity building has allowed us to start talking about this code, which adds a regulatory tool to our overall houselessness response strategy.
If you’ve tuned into our process, you know that creating this code has proven to be difficult and it should be. We understand the need to manage the right-of-way for the public and its intended use, and we also want to help people in crisis on our streets. With that in mind, when we do pass a code, it will be accompanied by a Resolution that outlines the City’s intent to continue and strengthen coordination with service providers that provide support to unhoused people who are sheltering in City rights-of-way. We want any rules we introduce to be balanced with offers of assistance or support. Our City Manager has referred to our efforts as aiming toward a “holistic response strategy,” which, I think, truly summarizes our intention.
At this evening’s work session, Councilors continued our conversation about the draft Camping Code. It has evolved through many rounds of feedback, including input from community members, advisory groups, the business community, City staff, service providers and individuals experiencing homelessness. At this point, the main focus of our discussion is time – to guide when people can shelter on City rights-of-way. We are trying to answer the question of, how long can an individual occupy a right-of-way in a tent or other camp.
At face value, it may seem like a simple question, but it involves several considerations, such as: alternative options for places people can go, how to help people maintain connections with service providers, factors like disability that might make moving challenging, and the conditions that make moving difficult, like extreme weather.
We want a code, or a set of rules, that works for everyone – for our community members, City officials, service providers, and especially for individuals who are unhoused.
The current version of the code specifies 24 hours as the amount of time an individual can spend in the rights-of-way. This would still require a 72-hour removal notice in the event of a violation which is state law for established campsites.
Council intends to pass a camping code before the end of the year. I do also want to remind everyone that any code we pass will not go into effect immediately. Instead, we will undertake an effort, along with the Coordinated Houseless Response Office and service providers, to ensure the new set of rules is understood and communicated across our community.
There will be an opportunity for your thoughts during the Public Hearing at our next Council meeting on November 16 and of course you are always welcome to email Council or make public comment at any of our meetings. I want to thank everyone who has already provided feedback regarding the draft code, and everyone who continues to listen to our questions and deliberations throughout the process.
-Councilor Megan Perkins