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Dozens of people camp at a homeless community on Hunnell Road in Bend on March 11, 2021.

A permanent supportive housing project, which would provide services and housing to people who are chronically homeless, could be a reality soon in Bend.

The project, which would be called Cleveland Commons, would sit at the corner of Fifth Street and Cleveland Avenue, and offer 36 housing units, according to Housing Works, the housing authority behind the development of the project.

The project would be the first of its kind in Deschutes County, and make a significant impact in the community, said Colleen Thomas, the county’s homeless services coordinator.

“This is huge for us,” Thomas said.

On Wednesday, the Deschutes County Commission decided to allocate $2 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding toward the project. Between this allocation, and $3.8 million that Housing Works has already received with other kinds of financing, the project has a $2.2 million funding gap remaining, according to county documents.

Getting money from local governments is crucial because receiving federal or state funding for this kind of project has proven difficult, said David Brandt, the executive director of Housing Works on Wednesday, because most of the money is directed toward the Portland area.

“Nobody from east of the Cascades has gotten one of those projects funded since it’s been started,” Brandt said, referring to the state’s housing stability council.

Cleveland Commons would be unique compared to other homeless-related project proposals in Central Oregon because it would serve a very specific slice of the homeless population, Thomas said.

The project would house people who are considered vulnerable and chronically homeless, Thomas said. Vulnerability can be measured by a variety of characteristics, including the number of times a person has had contact with law enforcement or visited the emergency room; mental health and physical health; and the amount of time a person has been homeless.

This often includes people who have underlying severe and persistent mental illness diagnoses, Thomas said.

The most recent survey done in 2019 to identify this chronically homeless population found roughly 220 homeless people in Central Oregon qualify for this kind of housing. Thomas suspects the number is now much higher.

“The hope is over time that providing an individual a safe place to call home, we can start to address their barriers to mainstream housing,” Thomas said.

Some on the commission questioned the overall price tag for the project — $8 million — and asked what the benefit was to putting this money into 36 units rather than a different kind of project that could feasibly host more shelter beds.

Thomas said the facility would serve the population that incurs some of the highest costs. According to a study from Oregon Housing and Community Services, a chronically homeless person spending one night in a hospital emergency room costs $500 on average, and one night at the county jail costs on average $125.

Permanent supportive housing in contrast costs between $59 and $64 a night, she said.

“We’ll really see a return on investment,” Thomas said.

A timeline for when the project could be finished remains unclear. Housing Works plans to apply for state money to close the $2.2 million funding gap for the rest of the project at the beginning of next year.

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(5) comments

Gary Mendoza

Bend’s coordinator for homeless services says Bend will “really see a return on investment” by spending $8 million to provide 36 homeless housing units.

This so-called return on investment isn’t measured by a reduction in the number of homeless (the most important metric). Instead, it’s based on a contrived calculation of how much less the homeless crisis will cost.

This “plan” is not sustainable financially and doesn’t make a dent in the increasing homeless squalor throughout Bend.

A better plan would target the most deserving (e.g., Veterans, women fleeing abuse, people prepared to get off the street) and relocate the homeless camps well outside Bend neighborhoods.

This plan shows Bend’s City Council is not serious about tackling a growing threat to Bend’s quality of life.

TRANSFORM

gary....couldn't agree with you more on this point....too many numbers floating around to justify somebody's idea of a plan to help. there are so many flaws in the thinking and rationale in the article i don't know where to start. in the meantime, here's something i'll be sending to city council soon......BULLETIN readers will be the first to see it :)......

simple question for any and all city/county officials.

does the city/county have a plan to maximize resource utilization as it applies to helping to mitigate the homeless issue confronting and confounding the city at present? it seems to me, as a previous management consultant to large public entities, that this would be a first step, as in, thoroughly define the issue before allocating resources. i know that various city staff in combination with a number of relevant agencies are working as diligently as they can, albeit, not in concert or as a team, to do something effective, but what i haven’t seen is an approach taken in a myriad of situations, both business and social endeavors, that identify and/or triage the environment within which resources need to be applied. more simply stated, does anyone know for certain the numbers of actual homeless people/families (many say 1000 on any given day in Central Oregon), and within that broad population, how many are in a variety of sub-groups, i.e., people who have recently lost their job/s and cannot afford rent; people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol; people who served their country and are now in need of support services, whether mental, physical, or both; people who are nomadic by design and have chosen that way of life; people who are transient and have no desire to be a contributing member of our community. if there has been such a survey, i cannot find it anywhere.

implementing a comprehensive survey of this of this nature is a necessary first step. i know several organizations have visited camps on a one off and or on a continuing basis, so gathering numbers of folks in each of the aforementioned categories shouldn’t be too difficult. once have done that, a concerted, coordinated, 1 leader at the helm, team or organization can then develop strategic and tactical plans utilizing the myriad of resources that currently exist or developing resources that don’t to address the broad issue as well as its underlying components/cagtegories. not knowing the environment within which the issues exist will lead to broad based expenditures without knowledge of or accountability for their effectiveness in mitigating the issues. often this leads to not only wasting limited monetary resources but human resources as well, in terms of time, effort, and disappointment with results.

after completion of such a survey, there should be targeted approaches to each component of the overall issue. i would like to suggest several such approaches as i see them based on my limited view of the component sub-groups as previously mentioned.

SG #1. people/families that have recently lost their source of employment regardless of reason who cannot afford rent of any type and who are now without shelter (living in a temporary campsite or a parked vehicle) but want to re-enter the workforce and get back on their feet so to speak, and be part of the Bend community. it should go without saying that first and foremost this subgroup needs sustainable employment that pays a living wage such that, in combination with other available social services, this person/family can pay rent and associated utilities and expenses. the city is in a position to provide this if it would make this a priority in it’s desire to effectively address the issue at hand. the city can tear down all bureaucratic barriers to providing jobs to this sub-group. there is much that the city needs that can be provided by people in this subgroup. all city owned facilities and property so matter the size or scope need attention; cleaning, painting, landscaping, repairing, rebuilding, non-skilled labor, skilled labor, administrative services, the list is only limited by, well nothing. yes, barriers exist…tear them down! do not continue to expend resources, whether city/county/state/federal that do not enable people in this subgroup to get out of this sub-group if they so desire, and my contention is, they do desire! for the folks in this category that are currently employed but not earning enough for rent, then the city should use some of the potential 8 million dollars to provide rent subsidies.

SG#2. people that are addicted to alcohol or dugs. these folks don’t need to be living in camps, managed or unmanaged. they need to be living in a substance abuse center/rehab center. get ‘em in there!!!! off the streets, out of the camps!!!! don’t have enough yet pending the states rehab building initiatives that recently passed…..get ‘em to locations in other states that have vacancies, but enabling, keeping them in places without oversight/support is in itself inhumane. tear down whatever barriers there are to getting these folks the help they need.

SG#3. VETS. thank goodness for them and for COVA. as a VET myself, i’ve had to reach out after my discharge several new moons ago for help, got it, and began getting on track as a contributing member of society. i see the VETS Village coming together, that’s great! i do know that not all VETS have the same issues, some abuse issues, some PTSD issues, (see suggested tactics above) some just leave me alone issues; it’s complicated for sure. all the VETS orgs need to step in more than they have to help our warriors, but first find out what the individual needs are.

SG#4. people who are nomadic by design and intent. they made a movie about Nomads….called Nomadland….all relevant organizations should watch it….very educational. shall there be a Nomadland site in Bend? perhaps, but this is not the type of camps we see in China Hat or Juniper Ridge or up and down 97 from here to Redmond….this would be a place, with restrictions, that is not necessarily “managed” as is the new vogue here, but officially policed for sure to ensure the safety of all who choose to be here “temporarily”.

included in this group are transients….this is a toughie. are these folks runaways? perhaps. are they freeloaders? perhaps. are they outcasts from other places? perhaps. a list of who they are could be endless. but assuming these are not SG#1/2/3 folks, and that they are hangin’ in Bend because, hey why not!….it’s not as crowded as Portland or Seattle or San Fran or LA….you name it, and a river runs through it and we can panhandle and we can be porch pirates and we can park on Hunnel for nothing and we don’t need or want to work. well, i hate to sound cruel, but these folks need to be escorted somewhere else, asap! if they don’t want to be contributing members of Bend and are otherwise ready willing and able to be that but just don’t, well adios! i have no idea HOW that would be accomplished, but it needs to happen. not just for the good of the city but for the good of folks who are in the 3 groups mentioned above…..THEY need the help!!!!

berryfarm541

Unrelated to the topic but I am pretty sure the hospital will charge you way more than $500 for an overnight stay.

69214

$8,000,000 for 36 people. $222,222 each.

Seems like that old hotel purchase might not look so bad now.

I still say that a Dignity Village on the north west side of Juniper Ridge with tiny homes and a community center is the way to go. They can get the services and protection they need there

TRANSFORM

do you live near Juniper Ridge?

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