If a town can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable, Bend may be judged harshly for the death of David Melvin Savory on a cold night on the street.
Indifference, delays, Not In My Backyard and lack of money lets homeless people die. Savory, a double leg amputee, died overnight outside a business on East 3rd Street. He was found Tuesday morning.
Temperatures have routinely dipped below freezing in recent weeks. Bend’s emergency warming shelter still is not open. Why does a warming shelter in Bend not have a permanent location? Why must there be a scramble to find one?
Savory, 57, was on the waitlist for several homeless shelters. No room. Good Samaritans gave him blankets and food. They tried to find him a hotel. Hotels apparently would not take him in because he had no valid ID. Can’t we do better as a community than that?
The city of Bend has proposed a temporary camping area at Juniper Ridge. It wants a permanent winter warming shelter. The goal is to couple a shelter with a navigation center to help connect homeless with services. Those changes won’t get everyone off the street. They won’t solve every problem with addiction or mental illness. They might not have helped Savory. They could and would help some.
The camp proposal faces resistance and concern from people who live near Juniper Ridge. They have reasons to be worried. The Juniper Ridge Fire in August was one. There’s garbage, uncertainty and more. What is the city going to do to earn the trust of residents near the proposed camp? And if such a camp is not going to be at Juniper Ridge, where is it going to be? Somewhere else is not an answer.
Helping the homeless requires money. The city needs a source of funding if it is going to make a difference. One proposal is to add an additional fee on development. If that isn’t the answer, what is it going to be? Where is the money coming from?
There are many organizations, agencies and individuals in Bend and the county who already try to help the homeless. You could make a difference. Learn about what they do. Learn about the gaps. Volunteer. A good place to start is to check out the information on the Homeless Leadership Coalition website, cohomeless.org.
Colleen Thomas, the Homeless Services Coordinator at Deschutes County Behavioral Health, told us the answers are not just about warm coats and donations. It’s the long-term solutions that matter. Do we care enough in Bend to do more?