The Bend City Council delayed a vote on controversial shelter code amendments at its regular meeting on May 4. If adopted the amendments would have loosened restrictions on where shelters can be placed, in accordance with 2021's House Bill 2006 that eased zoning requirements for homeless shelters.
The City has struggled to find places to site a managed camp over the past year, with attempts to site facilities on both Ninth Street and Juniper Ridge failing after intense public feedback. The code changes are no less controversial, and public comment lasted over an hour and a half at the City's first in-person council meeting that welcomed visitors since the pandemic began.
- Credit Jack Harvel
- Over 100 people showed up for the City's first in-person council meeting since the pandemic began. Over 30 people spoke during public comment on potential code changes, with a majority signaling opposition to some or all of the proposed changes.
The code changes proposed set guidelines for group shelters (multiple beds in one room), multi-room shelters (shelters with rooms for individuals or small groups), outdoor shelters (tiny home villages and supervised tent villages), temporary shelters (group, multi-room or outdoor shelters approved for 180 days or less) and hardship housing (RVs parking in residential areas).
The City Council suggested staff scrap hardship housing, provide 24-hour on-site management of shelters — either by shelter staff or potentially resident designees — and to include neighborhood associations as part of the notification process. Outdoor shelters in residential areas are limited to public institutions like churches under the proposed code.
Western cities don't have the ability to evict homeless people camping in the street unless there's adequate shelter capacity, a decision affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court through the court case Martin v. Boise. The City Council will have a work session on a possible camping ordinance on June 15.
The day after the meeting, the Homeless Leadership Coalition released its Point in Time Count , showing a 17% increase in homelessness over the last year, bringing the total number to 1,286 people who reported experiencing homelessness in Central Oregon on the day of the count, on Jan. 24, 2022. The survey showed the number of homeless children doubled, from 111 to 223. More households, adults and unaccompanied children experienced homelessness in 2021, while fewer veterans and unaccompanied 18-24-year-olds didn't have a place to stay.