Cities and counties across Oregon are hoping to get in on state Rep. Jason Kropf‘s bill that would create a pilot program to provide coordination to better address homeless issues. And the Bend Democrat’s proposed bill for the 2022 session would come with money to fund a joint city/county office at five locations in the state.
Will Bend/Deschutes County be one of them? They have until Dec. 10 to express interest. The city of Bend is interested. Deschutes County commissioners are scheduled to take up the issue Monday.
It would be disappointing if the commissioners decided to let this opportunity pass the county by. County and city support are required.
“We all know that further action is needed to address houselessness in Central Oregon and across the state,” Kropf told us in a statement. “Too many of our families, veterans, seniors, young people and others don’t have a safe and stable place to call home. By coming together, we can identify solutions that work for everyone. I am proud to be partnering with leaders and community members in our area and around the state to create a pilot program that will help communities tackle houselessness.”
The goal of the legislation is to help coordinate government, nonprofits and more to maximize their efforts to limit houselessness. There is no formal draft language for the bill, yet. And it’s not clear if the Legislature backs the pilot program, how much money it would be willing to invest. Kropf mentioned $5 million.
What is clear if you talk to people working on the bill, there are already more than five locations interested in joining the pilot. Presumably, Deschutes County and Bend would be awarded funding because it is Kropf’s bill. That is, if the county expresses interest.
If you have been following The Bulletin’s coverage of homelessness, there are many issues needing attention. For us, a couple of things stand out. There is an acute need to provide more opportunities for some of the most vulnerable homeless — unaccompanied minors, the elderly, veterans, the disabled. The county and the city of Bend could use this pilot program to better coordinate efforts to address those immediate needs.
There is also a need for leadership and accountability of the many organizations and government agencies and programs. They all do their best. There are efforts at coordination. They do work together. The regional Homeless Leadership Coalition can do some, but the people who are members of that coalition already have other jobs and responsibilities. What’s needed is someone or an office who can focus on the leadership role. The office could also look for opportunities to bring in more money and build more capacity to help move people out of homelessness.
The bill’s concept includes requirements, such as development of a plan to address homelessness and reports to the Legislature. Deschutes County and Bend have already been working on a plan through the city/county Emergency Homelessness Task Force.
One long-term issue is going to be money. If the pilot works in Deschutes County, it should be continued. Money would have to be found to do that.