When the city of Bend and Deschutes County joined forces to work on homelessness issues, that was progress.
Together they formed the Emergency Homelessness Task Force. Elected leaders from the city and the county are on it. City and county staff are on it. The city of Redmond has been involved. And a number of nonprofits who work with the homeless have joined in. The task force is creating a strategic plan for action. It’s not clear how or if homeless people themselves will get any say.
There’s a lot of will to do good. And there are already many people on the task force who are working every day to get people who are homeless housing and other help.
But the task force is trapped. Where is the leader? Whose job is it to lead, to keep the effort on track and adjust, asked Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Chang.
It’s not clear. And that means everybody is in charge and nobody is and they returned again in their meeting Tuesday to a discussion of who should lead.
The city of Bend is looking to the county to take on more and a more permanent commitment for funding. Commissioner Chang turned the discussion back to the city and a discussion about housing.
It’s similar to the back and forth over who should fund a homeless shelter in Redmond between that city and the county.
Is this a case where no elected leader wants the responsibility? Or is it just nobody feels like they have the resources to do more?
Are nonprofits and the other groups that deliver services to the homeless taking the lead?
No. Not really. They are stretched. Is there ever a time when they are not stretched? That tells you something.
And so in Bend and elsewhere we see more and more people living on the street.
More children. More people of color. More veterans.
Could the Homeless Leadership Coalition be formalized as the leader? Maybe. It’s actually a regional group that covers Central Oregon. That isn’t an exact fit for the task force’s more county-aimed approach. It would take staffing and funding.
State Rep. Jason Kropf, a Democrat who represents Bend, has told Bend City Manager Eric King that the state might be willing to fund a pilot of a local organization to formally coordinate homeless efforts. That was one encouraging bit in the meeting.
But who is that going to be? Who are the elected leaders who will ensure that is created?