A change.org petition fighting against an approved transitional house in Bend for felons, including those who committed sex crimes, has reached more than 200 signatures. The petitioner is concerned about its vicinity to schools and parks.
The house is a triplex located in a residential area at 640-652 SE Wilson Avenue. Petition organizer Ashley Schreiber lives two blocks away from the future shelter.
“What we’re concerned about is that these are felons and sex offenders. There are three schools and six parks within a mile of this triplex. I think there are more appropriate places this could be done,” Schreiber said.
Schreiber said she doesn’t expect the petition to block the housing, but hopes it encourages others to speak out. She said there are a few things the county could do to alleviate community concerns.
“We’re wondering if this address will be on the sex offender registry. If these people are going to be temporarily housed, we want it to be public knowledge that that’s where they are,” Shreiber said. “We want to know who these people are. We want their pictures. We want to know who exactly is living on our street.”
Most neighbors are questioning why they were not notified and why the location was chosen.
“My wife probably wont feel safe walking our girls to the parks without me along this route given the shelter here,” neighbor Ryan Rudnick said.
Rudnick lives two blocks away from the house. He also owns and rents out the adjacent triplex. He says most of his tenants weren’t notified by the county.
“They did do some outreach, door-to-door, and allegedly spoke to everyone in the adjacent doors to this property. In speaking with my tenants, only one of them heard from them and received a flier,” Rudnick said.
Current city code does not legally require notification for these kinds of shelters.
Deevy Holcomb with Deschutes County Community Justice says the county wasn’t given much time to notify the neighborhood.
“We were under the gun from a grant source that has had very tight timelines from the beginning. So within the context of what we were able to do with different approvals that were needed, from the board of county commissioners in order to get to the next step, we had a pretty limited timeframe for notifications,” Holcomb said.
While the shelter is in a residential area near parks and schools, Holcomb says the location fits the legal criteria.
“The housing market in Central Oregon is very tight. In the short timeframe we had, there were pretty limited options about where we could go. In deference to folks who have sex offenses, we did not want to be in sight line of parks or schools. This property meets that criteria,” Holcomb said.
The county is aware of community concerns about the house’s vicinity to areas frequented by children.
“Folks who are on community supervision, by and large, don’t have restrictions on where they can be,” Holcomb said. “On an individual basis, some people do and sometimes those people have sex offenses, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t parks or schools somewhere near by. Right now there are 1,000 folks in Central Oregon on community supervision.”
Holcomb says there are no statistics that indicate that transitional housing increases crime or danger in a neighborhood.