Deschutes County nixes managed camp, rankling Bend officials

By Emily Cureton Cook (OPB)
March 9, 2023 1:05 a.m.

A plan to help more people living without shelter in Central Oregon abruptly fell apart this week, after two Deschutes County Commissioners voted against funding a managed camp in south Bend.

Last week the three-member county commission verbally agreed to partner with the city of Bend, signaling it would use federal funding to pay for services at a city-owned property on South Highway 97. But in a Wednesday meeting, Commissioners Tony DeBone and Patti Adair overrode Commissioner Phil Chang to kill the project, taking city officials by surprise.

A person occupies a snow-covered tent on the outskirts of Bend, as the outside temperature approaches single digits on Dec. 29, 2021.

A person occupies a snow-covered tent on the outskirts of Bend, as the outside temperature approaches single digits on Dec. 29, 2021.

Emily Cureton Cook / OPB

Anger and frustration from residents near the proposed site drove the decision, DeBone said by phone after the vote.

“People buy into a community, a high dollar, very high cost these days community, and there’s just no easy way to site a managed camp for 15 or 30 people,” he said.

DeBone and Adair sent a letter Wednesday to Bend officials notifying them of the decision, which also cites concerns that $100,000 in county funding through the American Rescue Plan Act might not adequately cover the cost of the project.


Related: What Bend’s anti-camping code means for people experiencing homelessness

“We provide a lot of resources. It’s awkward for the city to ask us for more,” DeBone said, mentioning county support for affordable housing projects in Sisters and La Pine, as well as the county’s role in providing behavioral and public health services.

Within hours of the vote, Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler held a press conference to say she was “shocked and dismayed.”

“The status quo is not acceptable and our community deserves more than broken promises,” Kebler told reporters. “We are not going to be able to open a supported campsite on our own.”

The nixed camp plans were intended to help the most vulnerable and medically-fragile people find shelter away from unsanctioned encampments, Kebler added.

Last week, Bend officials stalled plans to sweep a large encampment in north Bend on March 16, saying they would wait for more alternative sites to come online. Kebler said she didn’t know how the county’s reversal will affect the city’s shifting approach to Hunnell Road.


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