Two Central Oregon organizations are participating in a statewide campaign to address the plight of homeless veterans.

Central Oregon Veterans Outreach and NeighborImpact are among 10 organizations in Oregon selected for Operation Welcome Home, a campaign overseen by Oregon Housing and Community Services and Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Ariel Nelson, spokeswoman for Oregon Housing and Community Services, said the campaign is supported by $1.5 million in state lottery funds allocated by the Legislature in 2017.

The funds will be used to help the local service providers house up to 500 veterans across the state, Nelson said. That is the overarching goal for the campaign, which runs until May, she said.

“It’s about aligning and creating working relationships with the existing service providers on the ground in each of these communities,” Nelson said.

The first step is to identify every homeless veteran in each community. A portion of the funds for Operation Welcome Home will go toward hiring a consultant to work with the 10 service providers to create detailed lists of veterans in need.

Kathy Skidmore, executive officer at Central Oregon Veterans Outreach, said 90 homeless veterans were recently identified in the region, but it would be helpful to have a database that all local organizations could access confidentially to keep the number of homeless veterans as accurate as possible.

An up-to-date list would help service providers identify homeless veterans and what services they need or are qualified for, Skidmore said.

Once the homeless veterans are properly identified, they can be connected with housing, she said.

“The whole goal is to give our community the tools to develop that by-name list,” Skidmore said.

Central Oregon Veterans Outreach and NeighborImpact also plan to use the support from Operation Welcome Home to strengthen a local veteran leadership team.

The team includes four other service providers: Central Oregon Homeless Leadership Coalition, Deschutes County Behavioral Health, Bend Treatment Center and the Warm Springs Veterans Service Office.

Central Oregon Veterans Outreach is housing more than 50 people in single family homes in Madras, La Pine, Prineville and Bend, and apartments and a duplex in Bend.

The veteran leadership team would create an even broader range of housing for homeless veterans, Skidmore said. And she is looking forward to reaching that target with the help of Operation Welcome Home.

“It’s a nice boost to our area to bring organizations together to work on veteran homelessness,” Skidmore said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com

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