“Last Monday we kind of shrugged our shoulders and said, ‘OK, let’s try and do this.’ And now we’ve got this response, so I’m fully comfortable in just letting the City put something there if they want but we don’t need to get near that,” DeBone said at the regular meeting on March 8.
Rogue Retreat in Medford also faced intense public scrutiny at its onset that subsided when the effort proved successful. Chang drew a distinction between the proposed managed camp to unmanaged campsites. On March 1, Chang said he wouldn’t support a managed camp that didn’t screen applicants prior to entry, have rules of conduct and fencing around the site.
“What we are talking about here is not Hunnell Road, it’s not China Hat, it is an authorized managed facility so it’s really important to keep in mind that if we want to fix the problem of maybe 1,000 people living unsheltered in unauthorized camping in the county, people do need places to go, they don’t just need to be sent to some new place they actually need a place that provides stepping stones or a pathway out of homelessness,” Chang said at the March 8 meeting.
“The county abandoned this pilot project before it even began and has provided no alternate site or concrete options for the short-term solutions we know we need right now." — Melanie Kebler
Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler expressed her disappointment with the county commissioner’s decision at a press conference on March 8. The City asked the county to partner on the proposed camp, tasking the county to hire contractors to oversee operations on a parcel of City-owned land. Both governments communicated over the past few weeks, but Deschutes County Commissioners never officially voted to sign onto the project. The plan did impact City decisions on homelessness, though, and on March 1 City Manager Eric King announced the City would postpone the sweep of an unmanaged campsite on Hunnell Road until a managed campsite was up and running.
“The county abandoned this pilot project before it even began and has provided no alternate site or concrete options for the short-term solutions we know we need right now. This is incredibly disappointing; we’ve had multiple conversations with the county as well as the Coordinated [Houseless Response] Office as elected leaders and staff about solutions about where people can go,” Kebler said during the press conference. “The City relied on information from the county in its decision about Hunnell Road and trusted that they were our partners.”
The proposed Murphy Road site would’ve accommodated about 25 to 30 medically vulnerable people. About 80 to 100 people live on Hunnell Road currently, and the Murphy Road site is one of several that the county explored for a managed camp. Adair clarified when voting against the site that the vote doesn’t exclude them from exploring other proposals. Kebler said the City is at capacity to increase shelter space after investing in motels as transitional shelter and the Lighthouse Navigation Center, and that it couldn’t take on the Murphy site without a potential budget shortfall.