People experiencing homelessness in Bend have taken legal action against the city over officials’ plans to remove multiple encampments and displace residents next week.
Three people living in their vehicles filed a lawsuit against city leaders Wednesday, seeking a court order to stop sweeps of multiple camps on the northern edge of town.
The lawsuit claims the city used inaccurate information when deciding to remove encampments on Hunnell, Loco and Clausen roads, and that the sweeps “imminently threaten the physical and mental health and well-being of these Bend residents.”
The defendants include all seven members of the Bend City Council, City Manager Eric King, Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz and Bend Transportation and Mobility Director David Abbas, whose office is in charge of clearing campsites, according to the lawsuit.
The city plans to press forward with the removals. A spokesperson declined to comment on specifics of the lawsuit. As of Thursday afternoon, a hearing had not been scheduled.
Some residents are planning to resist, whether or not they get backing from a judge’s ruling. Michelle Hester, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said she plans to stay put in her inoperable RV, even if it means getting arrested. It’ll be her last-ditch effort to prevent the sweeps, she said.
“I’m willing to take the risk if I can stop it and get us a little longer time,” Hester said.
Chuck Hemingway is a service provider who joined the lawsuit and helped file it in Deschutes County Circuit Court. He said there isn’t enough time to make sure the roughly 60 people living in the camps have somewhere else to go.
“No way that the service providers can work individually with these folks to try to find them a place to go,” Hemingway said.
The lawsuit claims the removals are largely based on a memo produced by Police Chief Mike Krantz in December, which detailed a high number of complaints and alleged crimes at Hunnell Road and surrounding businesses.
The plaintiffs claim these findings are outdated and that conditions have improved. They asked the city to conduct another review. City Manager Eric King originally declared the area a public health threat in December, and officials have stalled plans to remove campsites since March.
Wednesday, Hemingway filed more than a dozen requests for accommodations from people with disabilities, who say they need more time to move. City spokesperson Anne Aurand said staff are reviewing each request and trying to respond before Monday.
The city expects residents to leave that same day, Aurand said in an email, so that the camps are empty when city contractors arrive Tuesday. The clean-up could take four to six days to finish.
Hemingway confirmed that he’s spoken to several people who will likely refuse to leave in protest. He said while he understands their reasoning, he hopes it does not lead to violence or arrests.
Some living on Hunnell Road said Thursday they still don’t know where they will go or how they will transport their belongings. Many, like Hester, live in inoperable RVs and have no way to move them.
“They should give another extension at least two more months, so people can find a place to live,” said Michael Diciolla, who’s lived on Hunnell Road since March. “It’s going to be a nightmare.”
The conflict comes as local governments across Central Oregon have been cracking down on homeless encampments in the region. Many cities have passed new ordinances restricting where, when and how people can live outside.
Deschutes County also approved plans in June to remove a large encampment on Juniper Ridge, known to many unhoused residents there as “dirt world,” where nearly 200 people live.