REDMOND, Ore. - A neighborhood many Redmond residents rarely if ever see is a homeless community on public land just east of town.
Redmond city councilors and Deschutes County commissioners discussed the future of the lane near East Antler Avenue at a joint meeting Tuesday night. Residents of the homeless community in that area also spoke up at the meeting.
The prevalence of the homeless camps and other illegal activities such as trash dumping have motivated city and county leaders to work on a public land management plan. Such a plan could mean no more camps.
"Right now, I think we are being seen as different than everybody else," said camp resident Guy Cavallo. "We're not, you know. We are just you, and the next person."
Several people from the homeless camps spoke at the meeting, claiming many of the illegal activities are not caused by them.
Deschutes County, the Bureau of Land Management, the Central Oregon Irrigation District and the Redmond School District all own some of the 2,000 acres near East Antler Avenue.
Deschutes County Property Manager James Lewis said it's time to find a way to effectively manage that land, but it's a hard solution to work out.
"A lot of the other citizens that are going out there for recreational purposes, to bike, or to walk their dog," Lewis said. "When you have the homeless camps and a lot of the other illegal activities, there tends to be a conflict. And once it gets to a certain point, you have to figure out how to resolve this, and how to find a balance."
Besides the sheer number of camps located in the area, other issues involve illegal dumping and trash removal, wood-cutting, shooting, damage to public equipment and other criminal activity.
Lewis said hundreds of people now live on the rural land, causing more issues. But he said some of the impact actually comes from the general public, not the homeless residents of the area.
"Part of what we have been discussing is possible closing of all the illegal roads that access off the public roads," Lewis said. "There are a lot of dirt roads, and that's what everybody uses to gain vehicular access out there for all the illegal activity."
Another camp resident, Smokey, said he's been cleaning up garbage that residents from the city have been driving out and dumping.
"What (the homeless) are getting is a lot of lies," he said. "They're blamed for the mattresses, for example, but how many homeless people do you see walking down the street with a mattress tied to their back, or dumping full sets of tires? We're not doing all that, and not all of us are bad."
Cavallo said a lot of people are in need, and he just tries to help them set up or tear down camps and repair whatever they have.
"You know, not everybody out there is a drug addict, and not everybody out there is thief," Cavallo said. "We are just people trying to get on and trying to live a happy life, basically."
Lewis acknowledged there will never be a full solution to the homeless situation, but the land needs a management plan and a balanced solution to help all the parties involved.
Redmond councilors and Deschutes County Commissioners will meet again, along with other public organizations, to discuss a strategy that will maintain the public land, but also help the homeless community.