In the push to address homelessness in Central Oregon, Redmond City Council and Mountain View Community Development are considering a new approach by building a 45-spot recreational vehicle site with reduced rates to provide those experiencing homelessness with a safe and secure place to live.
The site will be on land shared with Oasis Village, a proposed transitionary shelter that could house another 30 individuals — meaning 75 people could live on the roughly 10 to 12 acres of land. The number could be higher if multiple people live in some of the RVs.
According to Redmond Mayor Ed Fitch, the two sites could make a dent in the growing homelessness issue in Redmond, but it won’t be a complete solution. The plan comes as the Redmond Airport plans to clear roughly 40 people living on airport property and the Department of State Lands aims to remove approximately 100 people from land east of 17th Street.
“We want to have these things hopefully in place because there is going to be a lot of relocation this year,” said Fitch. “We’re going to try and at least provide some alternative locations for these people this fall.”
Rick Russell, pastor of Mountain View Fellowship Church and executive director of Mountain View Community Development, said the RV park and Oasis village will operate as neighbors and possibly share resources, but are two distinct programs that will serve different populations.
Russell is also the director of the Redmond Safe Parking Program. He said that the parking program is free, but every current participant has some income and many could afford something, if there were reasonable options. But current RV parks in the area charge about $700 to $900 per month — and many of those are at capacity or won’t accept RVs older than 10 years.
“It’s just not an open door to any of the folks that we’re working with,” Russell said.
The proposed RV park, however, will offer spots below the going market rate and give people living in operable RVs and camper vans a place to reside. Russell and Fitch emphasized, however, that these will be temporary spots — not permanent residences.
“It’s kind of marrying traditional market rate RV park operations with homelessness services,” said Russell. “In a housing continuum, this is a step up from safe parking and a much more stable environment where they have some skin in the game as well.”
According to Russell, organizers are still trying to determine the cost of renting a spot and how long people could stay. However, he said the likely duration will be less than two years.
“I really wouldn’t regard it as a shelter or a managed camp or something like that,” Russell said. “In some ways, it’s much more like a business than it is … a traditional shelter.”
Russell said there will be a fee for participants and will include services such as housing navigation and case management that can help people advance to more stable housing.
While the park may be able to fund itself, Russell said it may also require subsidies from city, county or state governments.
Much to do
Before the project can open, the city will need to connect utilities from the south side of Highway 126 to the north side, may need to add a left turn lane to Highway 126 and build a street north from the highway. That street will also access the proposed CORE3 training facility to the east and Oasis Village to the west.
During the March 14 city council meeting, Fitch said the Oregon Department of Transportation was already planning to repave the section of Highway 126 and will allow the city to do an open cut for utilities, rather than forcing them to burrow underground. That will save time and money.
The city still needs to work on engineering design, cost estimates and budgetary and financial responsibilities. Additionally, the site sits a mile from the city center and they are figuring out how to put a walking path along Highway 126.
“Pedestrian safety is crucial and it’s got to be a part of the conversation here,” Russell said.
During the Feb. 28 city council meeting, the city gave $28,000 to Mountain View Community Development to perform a feasibility study on the site. According to Russell, the study will look at how the park would choose residents and how it would operate safely.
“We have a lot of work to do on that,” Russell said.
Additionally, Russell said they are setting up tours and meeting with other RV parks to learn and put together an operations plan.
“The interesting thing about this particular concept is that it is somewhat novel,” Russell said. “In some ways, Redmond will be at the front edge of trying to provide a new point in the housing continuum.”
According to Fitch, the city is committed to putting the road and utilities in by fall, so people will have a place to go before winter hits.
“We’re on a fast pace,” Fitch said. “The county has been very supportive and I think it’ll happen.”
Despite the county’s recent surprise reversal on a proposed managed camp for homelessness in Bend, Fitch said the county has been “a tremendous partner” on the RV site project.
“They have shown great willingness to work with us on it to share expenses,” Fitch said. “We do not see anything like what happened in Bend occurring here.”
Fitch also pointed out that the Redmond concept is different than the “managed camp” Bend wanted. While the Redmond site will be managed, it will be exclusively for RVs on the northern end and the tiny homes for Oasis Village on the southern side.
According to Russell, the original idea came from County Commissioner Tony DeBone.
DeBone said the location for housing solutions is always an important factor. The Bend camp, he said, was a little parcel in the parking lot of Les Schwab. Redmond’s spot is different — on the eastern edge of town and close to other proposed housing projects.
Additionally, DeBone noted that there are already dispersed campers in the area and that the county was brought into the discussion early, rather than being surprised at the last minute. DeBone said the Bend camp moved forward before anyone spoke with businesses or residents in the area, which is what he said caused the quick reversal.
“Let’s try not to do that,” DeBone said. “Before we go do anything, let’s make sure people know what’s going on.”
Fitch said that even though the RV park would be within the urban growth boundary, it’s not near residences or commercial buildings.
“I think that gives everyone a lot of comfort in that there’s not going to be a lot of conflict between this property and adjacent neighbors,” Fitch said.
Fitch said that while discussion on the RV park is just getting started, there is a time crunch to find housing solutions for those who will be displaced in the coming months.
“It won’t go perfectly, I guarantee that,” Fitch said. “But we’re going to do the best we can.”
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