City of Bend officials and Deschutes County officials are to meet Thursday to try to sort out how to coordinate their efforts on homelessness. The consequences will continue to be heartbreaking if they fail.
This week the homeless camp at the Revere overpass for the Bend Parkway was removed by the Oregon Department of Transportation. It’s just as the weather is getting colder.
Where are those people supposed to go? There is no place.
Earlier this year the city removed the homeless camp on Emerson Avenue in Bend.
Where were those people supposed to go? There was no place.
So how can the city and the county do better with the limited resources they have? How can they attract more resources? A joint city/county homeless office is one idea.
It would take money just to set it up. It needs to be staffed. It needs a mission. It needs a clear outline of its powers and purpose. It may be the best answer is just to start with the county and Bend, but other cities in the county surely need the help, too.
The City of Bend and Deschutes County Emergency Homelessness Task Force met this week and talked about how the office might work. Overall, Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Chang suggested it needs to complement what is already taking place. It could provide coordination and leadership.
It wouldn’t necessarily tell the city, the county, the Homeless Leadership Coalition and the other organizations involved in helping the homeless what to do. But somebody needs to coordinate their efforts. To see the gaps and find a way to plug them.
It should perhaps be in a leadership role to advocate at the state and the federal level on issues agreed to by elected leaders of the city and county. That could be in terms of policy changes and for money.
Money is always going to be a critical issue. The federal money from the American Rescue Plan has enabled the city to do many things, such as adding shelter beds. Those are one-time, as Bend City Manager Eric King pointed out. Where is the money to support those efforts going to come from — let alone to expand them?
If you think Bend and the county’s response to homelessness is adequate, there is nothing you need to do. But if you think the city and the county need to do a better job of coordinating efforts and a joint homeless office would help, let them know. You can email councilors at firstname.lastname@example.org and commissioners at email@example.com.