PENDLETON — Shortly after Christmas, Pendleton city officials took on the homeless camp near the corner of Southeast Frazer Avenue and 10th Street.
Police Chief Stuart Roberts said it was a semi-active campsite, but it was mainly used as an illicit storage area for Pendleton’s homeless population.
The camp was located on a secluded piece of public property but was surrounded by private property.
Roberts said the city decided to take action after receiving complaints from nearby residents about homeless trespassing on private property to access the site and all the refuse on the property.
Before they could begin clearing the site, Roberts said the city had to post notices on the property for people to retrieve their belongings and also needed to secure a temporary right-of-way to bring in equipment to remove the debris.
Pendleton Parks and Rec Director Liam Hughes said he and his team, which included City Manager Robb Corbett, gathered at 7 a.m. to get to work on clearing the camp as soon as there was daylight.
Hughes said they worked the day before to clear a path from 10th Street so that their dump truck and other equipment could reach the camp. While there on Friday, Hughes said they cleared piles and boxes of random items that ranged from teddy bears and jewelry boxes to drug paraphernalia and sex toys.
The camp clearing didn’t come with any surprises, Hughes said, and wasn’t nearly the worst or most challenging he’s dealt with.
As the issue of homelessness has risen to the forefront, the Pendleton City Council banned sleeping in public buildings and benches in August.
But the council held off on prohibiting outdoor camping as local officials tried to find a legal space where homeless people could stay.
City Councilor Carole Innes serves on an ad-hoc committee to tackle the issue, and she said the committee has taken “baby steps” toward finding a solution.
The city council previously discussed using city-owned property as a sanctioned homeless camp, but besides the logistical challenges, Innes said liability issues wouldn’t make the idea feasible.
Innes said the city could still partner with a nonprofit to offer some sort of campsite or shelter for the homeless, but she was concerned that such a facility wouldn’t have enough volunteers to keep it running.
In the meantime, Innes said the committee will continue to meet and work toward a resolution.