Law enforcement and Sisters area houseless
Last updated 10/18/2022 at Noon
Being homeless is not a crime.
The local Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office substation in Sisters is tasked with the delicate task of dealing appropriately with a houseless population and citizen concerns. Lt. Chad Davis will be one of the panelists in a Town Hall, “Houseless in Sisters,” on Thursday, October 20.
Lt. Davis told The Nugget that much of deputies’ time spent in dealing with issues around unhoused people in the community involve trying to find solutions to problems and connect people with appropriate services. He noted that the network of people working on these issues has grown and improved in recent years, allowing deputies to find people to help when law enforcement isn’t the solution.
He said that when people see a couple of deputies talking to a homeless person, they might think they are “rousting” that person — but most likely they’re trying to figure out how best to find them appropriate help — whether that’s medical assistance or a ride.
People who are disruptive in Sisters businesses do get trespassed, and the Sheriff’s Office responds to law enforcement issues in the forest.
“Our time in the forest is spent responding to 911 calls and conducting follow-up investigations,” Davis notes. “I have personally responded to disputes, illegal dumping calls, illegal campfires, contacts with wanted subjects, abandoned vehicles, and death investigations.
“If a crime has been committed, we take action,” Davis says. “If a crime has not been committed we can offer services, such as limited courtesy transports, or making referrals to other resources. Some of the resources we commonly reference are the Sisters Kiwanis Club Food Bank, the Wellhouse Church, the Sisters FAN (Family Access Network) office, and the Deschutes County Stabilization Center in Bend.”
Davis also notes that, while some people living in the forest have mental health and stability issues, many are solid citizens.
“One of the perceptions is that people living in the forest are criminals,” he says. “That sometimes is true, but often not. More often than you’d think, people living in the forest have jobs in Sisters Country and are unable to afford housing in the area. The forest often becomes the default housing area for those folks.”
Deputies are empowered to use discretion in cases where law enforcement action could be taken — but might not be the best approach to the problem.
Davis said he hopes the town hall forum helps the public understand what can and cannot be done to address the houseless population in Sisters, and encourages people to volunteer and help provide partners in working on a complex issue that is likely to be a part of the community going forward.
The Citizens4Community Town Hall “Houseless in Sisters” is set for Thursday, October 20, 5:30 p.m. (discussion starts at 6 p.m.) at the Sisters Fire Hall community room, 301 S. Elm St.