Joseph Ditzler
The Bulletin

Kenny LaPoint has moved on, and with him goes a record of helping homeless youth and veterans in Central Oregon, and working-class families in search of homes.

During his 5½ years with Housing Works, the public housing authority in Central Oregon, the agency found homes for veterans and increased its inventory of rental units by about 200. His former supervisors give LaPoint a big share of the credit for making those things happen.

“We’ll miss him big time,” said Tom Kemper, Housing Works executive director. “He was a banner for us and for the homeless in the community. That’s why I say it was such a loss for Central Oregon, one that will be hard to fill.”

LaPoint, 35, started work in public affairs in Salem this month with the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department. He’ll work with groups around the state, including coordinated care organizations, housing authorities, workforce investment boards and others to find resources for their programs.

With Redmond-based Housing Works, LaPoint served as public affairs director, and prior to that oversaw the agency’s essential programs, such as housing vouchers and resident services.

“Nothing I accomplished at Housing Works was in a box or a silo,” he said. “Those were team activities.”

Left undone, he said, is creation of more affordable housing in Bend for working-class people. He served on the city’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, which recommended to the City Council measures to increase housing options in Bend, including exempting builders from development fees and lifting density requirements in some cases.

“I think those two things could have an impact on developing affordable housing in Central Oregon,” he said.

Kemper and his predecessor, Cyndy Cook, said LaPoint overcame bureaucratic obstacles to start a program in 2010 to house Central Oregon homeless veterans. Housing Works had obtained vouchers in fall 2010 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to pay rent for homeless vets. The program stalled because the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was slow to hire a caseworker to review veterans’ eligibility. LaPoint went to work, contacting those involved, including U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, to clear the way, Cook said.

“It was Kenny’s tireless advocacy, pulling people together, that got the attention of the VA and got the caseworker necessary and got people housed, and then we received more funding,” she said.

LaPoint was also instrumental in creating Icon City, an all-volunteer nonprofit group that works online to provide basic needs such as clothing and shelter for the homeless, particularly homeless youth, Kemper said. The network of volunteers responds to text messages sent seeking sleeping bags, boots, whatever the need might be.

“It’s phenomenal, but simple,” Kemper said.

LaPoint also served on the Homeless Leadership Coalition and the Central Oregon Renters Association. He also worked 3½ years for NeighborImpact, an organization that helps its clients find affordable housing in Central Oregon.

“He was just more than an employee who was hired for a mission,” said Cook, who hired LaPoint at Housing Works. “It was his personal mission as well.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815,