Complaints about Bend 'car camping' skyrocket

Lack of affordable housing plays major role

People living in cars

BEND, Ore. - Bend police say in the past two weeks, they've received far more complaints about vehicles with people living in them than in recent years.

Many of these these complaints are posted on a neighborhood-based online forum called NextDoor.

The person who started the thread wrote, "We have noticed an increase in vehicle campers in and around our neighborhood and it's becoming a problem. The people living in these vehicles appear to be homeless and the petty crimes are starting to take place..."

But it's important to note, not all of these people are criminals.

These include Meredith Weissman, a field instructor at a local wilderness therapy company, who said she spends every other week living out of a camper. 

"My hope is that people who have these concerns can address them in a productive manner and also try to not dehumanize people who do choose to live alternative lifestyles," she said. 

Because, sometimes, Bend police Lt. Clint Burleigh said, the alternative lifestyle is the only option. 

"I think there's folks and that is what they're able to do right now, that's all they're able to do for housing, and so they're living in that circumstance," Burleigh said. "So it's not just people choosing to live in their cars, sometimes its circumstances that they have to live in their cars.".

But when it comes down to it, a shortage of affordable housing plays a major role in this trend, explained community organizer Greg Delgado.

"People are thinking, they're living in our neighborhoods, defecating everywhere and using drugs, I think it's a bigger issue that that," Delgado said.

"If we had affordable housing, affordable transition homes, I think it would alleviate some of that," he said. "But we are a seasonal, part-time kind of place for young people."

Bend police tag the vehicles they've received complaints about and the vehicle must move to a new spot within 48 hours.

But there is a federal statute that bars police from towing a vehicle that's considered a home.

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