REDMOND, Ore. - Roads are being blocked in Central Oregon to help keep homeless campers off the land. It’s been about a month since crews started closing off paths around the area at the end of Antler Avenue east of Redmond, where a large homeless camp is located. But it seems like campers aren’t being discouraged.
“There are a few (people) that have left, but not a lot,” Sharon Suydam said Wednesday.
Suydam has been living on the land for just over two years. Despite the recent move to block access roads, she said many, like herself, are not leaving.
“I’m going to stay until I can find some other place to go and if they’re not going to provide some other place to go, they’re going to need to evict me,” she said.
Suydam said she knows she’s on private property, but that there isn't anywhere else people out there can go.
“A lot of people are elderly. They have health problems. They need to be closer to town,” she said.
Suydam said all but two roads have been blocked, but people are still finding ways into their camps. Barbed wire fences are being cut and fresh tire tracks can be seen in the dirt.
The same thing is happening along Highway 97 between Bend and Redmond.
“We’ve found fences that are cut along our right of way to allow people to go into the camping areas,” ODOT spokesman Peter Murphy said. “And we have gone back in and replaced those fences, only to find that they are either cut or destroyed somehow later on.”
For ODOT, these makeshift pathways can be hazardous.
“Even the shoulder is something we protect, and the right of way,” Murphy said. “And as folks drive into this non-designated pathway, they tend to destroy the shoulder that we put in there to help keep motorists safe.”
Areas along the highway are also being closed and blocked. But Suydam said barricades won’t work to keep people out when there are no other options.