Final residents clear out of large Bend homeless encampments

By Joni Auden Land (OPB)
BEND, Ore. July 28, 2023 5:12 p.m.

For years, the areas around Hunnell and Clausen roads were filled with tents and RVs. Now, those same streets are empty and much quieter.

The city of Bend completed removal of its largest homeless encampments, after a monthslong battle between officials and the dozens of people living there came to an end.

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A federal judge denied a last-ditch appeal by residents in the encampments, who were seeking a temporary restraining order. Three residents of the camps had argued that the planned sweeps violated their constitutional rights in various ways. Judge Ann Aiken said this week that the federal court couldn’t weigh in on some aspects of the camp clearings and that it was “in the public interest” for the city to regulate its roads.

Michelle Hester (left) and Savage stand on Clausen Road in Bend, where crews finished removing tents and RVs on Thursday, July 27, 2023. Savage's trailer was among the last remaining.

Michelle Hester (left) and Savage stand on Clausen Road in Bend, where crews finished removing tents and RVs on Thursday, July 27, 2023. Savage's trailer was among the last remaining.

Joni Land / OPB

Even at the last minute, after weeks of back and forth, some people living at the sites have struggled to leave. One woman who went by Savage woke up Thursday morning to find her RV no longer worked. She spent much of the morning trying to charge her battery before a tow truck arrived.

“We didn’t know this wasn’t going to tow until this morning, so that’s a problem,” Savage said. “I’m not gonna let them take it without a fight.”

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Savage and Chris Moe shared the RV on Clausen Road, near Bend’s northern city limit. They were among the last people remaining, with many having towed their RVs the previous night.

Many residents had plans to move to Juniper Ridge, locally known as “Dirt World,” or other public lands in Central Oregon. But both areas could also be set for their own camp removals. Because many shelters do not accommodate RVs or trailers, residents like Savage avoid using them.

“I’m not gonna go to the shelter and sleep separate from him [Moe],” she said. “We’re all adults here, we should be able to manage our own lives.”

After police warned them Thursday that a tow truck was only minutes away, it became clear they wouldn’t be able to get the vehicle started in time. It soon became a mission to salvage what they could before crews arrived.

Chris Moe’s mother, Sydney Moe, arrived with an SUV to help take some items. She said she worried her son, who has cancer, would suffer from the stress.

“I’m really overwhelmed. I wasn’t prepared for such a rush this morning,” said Sydney, who is also experiencing homelessness.

Sydney Moe, exhausted from the heat, leans on her son's RV on Clausen Road in Bend. The city of Bend completed its removal of RVs and tents in the area this week.

Sydney Moe, exhausted from the heat, leans on her son's RV on Clausen Road in Bend. The city of Bend completed its removal of RVs and tents in the area this week.

Joni Land / OPB

In the end, the city towed the RV away. Personal belongings collected during the removals are put in storage for residents to claim later.

The total financial costs of the removal are still unknown. City spokesperson Anne Aurand said contracting the Central Oregon Bio Solutions for the first day of cleanup cost nearly $6,000 alone.

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