After roughly three years of planning, building and setbacks, the Central Oregon Veterans Village for homeless veterans is finally a reality. The village, which sits adjacent to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office public safety campus in north Bend, officially opened to house five homeless veterans with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Veterans Day.

The village eventually will be able to house 15 homeless veterans in cluster-style transitional housing.

The village is a first of its kind in Central Oregon, and is seen as a possible blueprint for what can be done as the region tackles a growing homelessness crisis.

Dick Tobiason, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Vietnam War veteran who emceed the ceremony Thursday, noted the number of homeless veterans in Central Oregon increased from 59 to 90 last year, according to the region’s Point-in-Time count.

“That just reinforces the fact something has to get done,” he said.

The project is a joint effort between Deschutes County, the city of Bend and private donations. Between both in-kind and cash contributions, the project ended up costing roughly $1 million, said Erik Tobiason, the executive director of the Bend Heroes Foundation, which conceived and managed the project.

Erik Tobiason said he hopes this model of private donations mixed with public money is one that can be replicated for homeless people in general.

“This got built, and that’s some level of success,” Erik Tobiason told The Bulletin. “Hopefully we can repeat that. We have a lot of homeless people in this town.”

Tucked back behind the Deschutes County dispatch center, small, individual shelters are arranged in a semicircle around a community building, which is expected to provide meals, showers and services to help people get back on their feet.

Each shelter has a small front porch, a bed, a toilet and sink, a side table and, notably, a pillow with the word “Hope” stitched to the front.

The shelter will be operated by the nonprofit Central Oregon Veterans Outreach, which is expected to move in the village’s first residents next week.

“What this is going to do for veterans is a game changer,” said JW Terry, the nonprofit’s executive director.

The project ran into a number of obstacles, which delayed its opening by several months. The region’s labor shortage was one of them.

To fill the gap, dozens of youth volunteers from J Bar J and Heart of Oregon Corps spent time this summer building parts of the shelters that veterans will now call home.

The project also faced several hurdles related to local code requirements early on, but was given a quick path forward when the state Legislature adopted House Bill 4212 last year.

The bill allowed local governments to create emergency shelters without having to go through the regular land use process, which can be costly, take a long time to review and requires public comment periods.

“It takes an entire community working together to build a village,” said Cheri Helt, a former state representative from Bend who helped pass the legislation.

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(3) comments

Slushman

What the article doesn't point out is how many businesses in the greater Bend area gave time money and Manpower to this project. If they were all to be listed the article would be twice as long. Paving, Roofing, structural work.

Marcomm

This is awesome! Thanks Cheri Helt for your part in this!

Transitory Inflation

Nice

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