Problems With the Bend’s Proposed “Houseless” Code

It is generally recognized there is no “one solution” to the homeless problem.  Such people are homeless for many reasons; attempts to help them require a wide variety of programs.  Homeless camps are one solution for people who want to get off the streets and find a job.  Such camps relieve them of the daily struggle for food and warmth, and enable them to channel their energies into programs that lead to stable, productive lives.

Citizens are rightly concerned about the effects of such camps in their neighborhoods.  While some homeless only need a stable living situation to improve their condition, others are not willing or are incapable of conforming to the rules necessary to make such camps tolerable to neighbors.

The City Council has assured citizens that any homeless camps will have high standards.  Its proposed code for permanent shelters, Section 3.6.600, does that. They will be managed, with prominent contact information, good neighbor policies, screened fences and trash, off-street parking, full utilities and waste disposal, strict lockdown times, a waiting area; in short, all the safeguards that would prevent them from being noxious nuisances to the neighbors.

The city’s summary of the proposed code for temporary shelters is inaccurate and incomplete.  See Sounding Board to House Our Neighbors and the link Houselessness in the City of Bend.  The city describes four types of shelters:  Group, Multi-Room, Outdoor and Hardship.  But in fact there are five.  The 180-day “temporary shelter” proposed in Section 3.6.400.I is omitted from both the code summaries and the “Tell Us What You Think” survey.

The city proposes permitting two types of “temporary shelters:” one for up to three years (one year with two possible extensions), another for 180 days.  See Section 3.6.400 H & I.  These temporary shelters have virtually none of the safeguards required for permanent ones.

Hardship Shelters:  Section 3.6.400.H

The present code allows for medical hardship housing.  The proposed Section 3.6.400.H permits individual home owners to accommodate people who lack housing due to hardships.  But it expands “hardship” to include “any people who lack housing,” as well as victims of “fire, flood or other calamity.”   Thus, a person who is homeless for any reason would be allowed to live with strangers for up to three years on a residential lot in an RV, if it had full utilities/waste disposal.  The RV may be parked in the residence driveway.  No one appears to be responsible for managing this hardship shelter or for verifying whether and why the person lacks housing.

Why shouldn’t the same strict standards that apply to permanent shelters also apply to a homeless person residing with strangers on a residential lot?

“Hardship” shelters should be for people who are homeless because of medical problems, fire, flood or other causes for which they are not personally responsible.  Permits should require independent certification and clear management standards for the people who allow an unrelated person to reside on their property.

Temporary Shelters:  Section 3.6.400.I

The city also proposes a new kind of temporary shelter which largely dispenses with the safeguards required for permanent shelters.  Section 3.6.400.I allows a 180-day permit for “temporary shelters,” which may be outdoor, group or multi-room, and placed in Residential, Commercial Mixed-Use, Public Facilities or Light Industrial zones.  The living units can be tents.  There are no capacity limits.

The only significant standard for a permit is a requirement for full utilities and connection to sewer/septic, or a reliable disposal for RVs or portable toilet facilities.  The permit does not require an accountable management, good neighbor policies, screened trash receptables, curfews, or off-street parking.

Why are 180-day shelters necessary?  Why don’t the permanent shelter standards also apply to them?  The city has invited your comments, which are due by November 1.

Write to:;;

Karon Johnson