Bend to resume homeless camp removals on Thursday after court victory

By Ryan Haas (OPB)
July 26, 2023 10:48 p.m.

A federal judge in Oregon ruled on Wednesday that the city of Bend may resume its plans to clear encampments along Hunnell and Clausen roads.

Three people staying at the encampments had sought a temporary restraining order, alleging the city would be violating several constitutional rights by seizing people’s property and possibly arresting them if they refused to leave camps.

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The lawsuit named the city council and Bend City Manager Eric King as defendants.

Michelle Hester, pictured at her trailer on Hunnell Road in Bend on July 13, 2023, is one of three plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the city of Bend.

Michelle Hester, pictured at her trailer on Hunnell Road in Bend on July 13, 2023, is one of three plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the city of Bend.

Joni Land / OPB

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A similar effort to halt the camp clearings was denied in Deschutes County Circuit Court earlier this month. In her order on Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken noted that legal precedence doesn’t allow the plaintiffs, in this case, to bring essentially the same lawsuit to federal court after losing at a state court level.

Aiken also said Bend has a camping code that allows people to sleep outdoors as long as they move every 24 hours. She said that undermined the plaintiffs’ claims that they’d be irreparably harmed if the city enforced its camping measures.

“It is in the public interest to regulate public streets in a way that could allow all to use the roads,” Aiken wrote.

In a statement, the city said it planned to resume its efforts to clean the encampments on Thursday.

“The City remains committed to meeting its obligations to manage its public spaces while also addressing issues around homelessness and individuals experiencing homelessness with compassion and pragmatism,” Assistant City Attorney Ian Leitheiser wrote.

Cities and other governments across Central Oregon have been gearing up for months to more strictly enforce camping rules and remove settlements for people who are experiencing homelessness.

Michelle Hester, one of the plaintiffs in the case, had previously told OPB she plans to resist removal from her inoperable vehicle along Hunnell Road when the city clears the encampment.

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