Oregon has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country, and our state has experienced a huge increase since the start of the pandemic. With hot summer temperatures spiking, not to mention the smoke rolling off wildfires and into communities, having stable housing is more important than ever.
Organizers across rural Oregon know that a reasonable standard of living is a requirement for a thriving democracy, and are fighting hard to protect their houseless neighbors. Many people are focusing efforts on solutions such as using federal infrastructure funding to build shelters, safe parking programs, affordable housing, managed camps, and more.
When those fixes come too slowly, or collaborations fall through, communities are quickly taking action to stop or reduce the harm of police sweeps of campers. In Central Oregon, community members have been organizing to stop sweeps on Hunnel Road in Bend and Juniper Ridge on county land between Bend and Redmond. During what a local paper is calling the “Summer of Sweeps,” organizers have been using email and Signal (an encrypted messaging app) to send out rapid updates and clear calls to action to the community. They shared about a lawsuit against the city of Bend by some of those being uprooted by sweeps, provided suggested messaging for folks to email city council members, and organized a protest to demonstrate that the community is horrified by the city’s actions. Now, a lawsuit is pending before the City of Bend that claims that the city’s camping code is cruel and unusual punishment under the U.S. and Oregon constitutions. If you are in Bend and want to get involved in supporting your houseless neighbors, reach out to Bend Equity Project at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, a few individuals in Cottage Grove are attempting to recall three city councilors, blaming them for “enabling” and attracting more houseless people to the community. Human dignity group leaders are calling this out for what it really is: Blackberry Pie Society wrote in their latest newsletter, “C’mon Recallers, just say it. You just don’t want homeless people in our community.” Check out the linked newsletter for more info and ways to get involved.
What’s going on with housing and houseless community members in your area? How is your community working towards real solutions? Share a story with us so we can strategize as a state about what’s working and what needs doing! Email Sidra at email@example.com.
Sidra and the ROP Team