The city of Bend’s purchase of the Bend Value Inn for a homeless shelter may be needed now more than ever. But it is also a reminder of how much more need there is.
“I don’t know that our speed … will match the need,” said Molly Heiss, director of housing stabilization for NeighborImpact, the city’s contractor who will run the hotel shelter.
On Tuesday evening Heiss and representatives from the city met with people who live near the site on NE Division Street to explain how it will operate and answer questions. The shelter may be up and running by the end of the year.
28 rooms. That’s what the hotel has. That could make a difference in the lives of those who get selected to live there. It could put them on a path to more permanent housing and a more stable life. There are hundreds more who live in and around Bend that there will not be room for in this shelter or the others in town. Nobody is pretending otherwise.
“This is one part of the solution,” said Carolyn Eagan, Bend’s recovery strategy and impact officer.
Families and individuals will be chosen for the shelter based on the hope that they seem likely to succeed in transitioning away from homelessness. It won’t be the people who are most difficult to house or the people who are most difficult to treat. Where do those people go? We don’t know.
A few rooms at the hotel shelter may be set aside specifically for houseless patients who are scheduled to be discharged from treatment at the hospital and lack mobility and a place to stay. It’s one of the yawning gaps in the system now. There’s often no good place for those people to go. Now there may be.
Maybe a dozen people who live near the hotel shelter came out for the meeting Tuesday evening. They had many, many questions. Security? Camping next to the hotel? Needles on the ground? People tromping through their yards? Who can we call if we see something? Neighbors also pointed out a disparity. If they want to do something on their property, they have to march through the city’s bureaucratic steps. The city, because of changes in state law, could skip the steps and site the hotel shelter.
Another question that came up: Why has Bend concentrated three homeless shelters in one part of town? Shepherd’s House is just south on NE Division Street. And if you go the other way, not too far north is the Bethlehem Inn. Well, that was not a calculated plan. The city only picked the hotel it purchased. It is a good point, though. Why are they all in that general area? Why nothing on Bend’s west side?
Heiss didn’t make sweeping promises to the neighbors. She was, though, reassuring and honest. She pledged she or her successor will be available to respond to concerns and will strive to be a good neighbor. She said there might be people who use drugs who stay at the shelter, but no drug use will be permitted on site. She added that the services offered at the shelter — medical care, perhaps some meals — will only be available for people who live there. That should help minimize the impact on the local neighborhood.
You can gripe and prickle at how little the city and other governmental agencies have done to care for and help the houseless in Bend and Central Oregon. These 28 new rooms will be abundantly inadequate. But every little bit helps.