'Thievery’s going to go up': Residents question possible overnight camping site

Nothing's been decided yet but some Santa Clara residents are up in arms about the possibility of a new overnight camping site, April 4, 2018. (SBG)

SANTA CLARA, Ore. -- Nothing's been decided yet but already some Santa Clara residents are up in arms about the possibility of a new overnight camping site.

Lane Transit District owns the vacant lot on the corner of River Road and Hunsaker Lane and they're looking into the possibility of using the site for St. Vincent de Paul's Car Camping Program.

Basically, the City would give three vehicles permits to come in and out as they please, providing homeless families a place to stay.

It's a program that's been around for ages -- just not here, and that's what neighbors have a problem with.

For Santa Clara residents Jane Twite and John Hagen, it's not about this vacant land - it's about what surrounds it.

"There's a neighborhood here, there's a neighborhood there,” says Twite. “There's neighborhoods all around here and four schools. This is not the place to put this."

The LTD property on the corner of River Road and Hunsaker Lane is a future bus station, but not for a while, so meanwhile, LTD is looking into adding it to the Car Camping Program, allowing the three vehicles access in and out.

There would be port-a-potties and garbage service there.

It would be just like the 60 0ther sites around the city in the program that's been around since 1994.

"100% success - we've had very little issues, if any," says St. Vincent de Paul Overnight Camping Coordinator Keith Heath.

But neighbors aren't buying it.

"I get that,” says Twite, “I understand what they want to do but it attracts other homeless."

"Thievery’s going to go up,” adds Hagen, “I mean, it just will."

They worry things could get out of hand, that there'd be an uptick in crime and their property value will go down.

On top of all that, they say no one even told them.

"No notification; none,” says Twite.

But LTD spokesperson Therese Lang assures they sent out 150 letters to residents and businesses nearby. They're holding a community meeting Thursday night for input, and they're not doing anything until they know what neighbors want.

"We really do take the concerns of the neighbors in this area very seriously," says Lang, who says LTD is open to compromise and collaboration. She says this is just the beginning of the discussion; it’s not yet a decision.

The community meeting is Thursday at 7 p.m. at Messiah Lutheran Church.

Lang says LTD wants to hear from people both for and against the camp site.

We also spoke to City Councilor Mike Clark, who says the council has the final decision on this.

There will be representatives from the City, LTD and St. Vincent de Paul at the meeting.

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