“Bend doesn’t have to become like Portland, Seattle or San Francisco,” says former mayor
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – A new nonprofit called the Bend Humanity Coalition announced Friday that it will pressure city councilors and officials to remove homeless camps from public property and discourage these campsites by any legal means of enforcement necessary for the safety of those who reside there and the community in general.
The organization said in a press release that it “plans to work towards a more humane, safe and responsible approach to homelessness.” He said the group had formed following the deaths over the summer of two men living in a homeless camp on Hunnell Road in Bend.
“It is inhumane and dangerous to encourage people to live on the streets and in other public property in Bend,” said lawyer Jeff Eager, former city councilor and consulting mayor for the coalition.
“The Bend Humanity Coalition exists to demonstrate to city leaders that these camps are unacceptable to our community; that it is not “welcoming” to our homeless neighbors to create an environment in which they perish on our streets; that homeless camps, although the most dangerous for those who live there, also create risks for the landlords and surrounding residents and paint a bad image of our community.
The Bend Humanity Coalition said it will start reaching out to community members, inviting them to provide their views on homelessness issues to Bend City Council and other relevant governing bodies.
“This approach will focus on the need for constitutionally compliant enforcement of existing laws and ordinances discouraging camping and other hazardous activities on the public domain to accompany the community of Bend’s unprecedented investment in services and alternative sleep solutions for homeless people, ”the ad said.
Eager added, “Bend doesn’t have to become like Portland, Seattle or San Francisco, with a large permanent homeless population sleeping and dying on public property. We have a choice as to whether we, as a community, will tolerate and tolerate dangerous homeless camps. The Bend Humanity Coalition exists to give the entire Bend community a voice to influence this decision for the benefit of our homeless neighbors and all other members of our remarkable and compassionate community.
A letter the group urges residents to send to city councilors reads, in part:
“The provision of housing services and options must be accompanied by fair and loving but resolute application of the law. There are laws against littering, public urination and defecation, public intoxication, and drug use. When these activities take place, whether in homeless camps or elsewhere, the city must enforce them. We cannot let our streets become the site of chronic anarchy. We have seen how it ends in other cities. Nobody wants that for Bend. “
The Bend Humanity Coalition said more information can be found on the organization’s website: www.bendhumanitycoalition.org.
The coalition formation comes amid controversy over the city’s proposed managed camping near two schools in northeast Bend, following the city’s earlier withdrawal from a homeless camp of parked vehicles along NE Emerson Avenue. A similar dispute arose last year over a similar city proposal on the city-owned Juniper Ridge property, an idea that was later shelved.
Earlier this year, the Oregon legislature passed and Governor Kate Brown signed a law that limits camping regulations and protects homeless campers in public spaces.
Bill 3115 says that any city or county law must be “objectively reasonable as to time, place and manner” whether it regulates “sitting, lying down, sleeping or staying warm and dry in the exterior on public property “. It demands that cities pass ordinances to protect people from fines and camping fees on public lands, if local government does not come up with adequate viable alternatives.
The new state law follows a 2018 U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Martin v. Boise who prohibited governments from criminalizing life in public spaces if local governments did not provide enough shelter beds for every homeless person.
Eager admitted to NewsChannel 21 that he was unaware of the legal advice that city lawyers have given to staff and advisers on the matter and the legal limits of their actions. And he said the new state law appears to codify the 9th Circuit ruling.
“It is true that the Boise decision prevents the cities of the 9th Circuit from certain enforcement measures,” he said. “Our point is that this does not exclude everything.”
As for the run camps proposed by the city, still in their infancy, Eager said: “At least at this point, we don’t intend to establish a position on them.”