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More than 12,000 Deschutes County households invited to help launch Civic Assembly on Youth Homelessness

Central Oregon Community Action Project

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Central Oregon Civic Action Project and Central Oregon Youth Action Board have mailed 12,500 letters to randomly selected households in Deschutes County to participate in a Civic Assembly focused on solutions for youth homelessness.

Here's their announcement, in full:

The Civic Assembly is a democratic innovation in which communities involve everyday people in helping decision-makers improve outcomes. Assemblies around the world have been shown to bolster civic trust, decrease polarization, and increase democratic resilience.

Recipients of the mailing can volunteer to participate in this Civic Assembly for five days spread over September and October this year. Thirty people broadly representative of Deschutes County will be randomly selected and given the time and resources to study the issue of youth homelessness, deliberate, and to present policy recommendations to local decision-makers.

“We’ve all seen the impacts of homelessness on Central Oregon and around the country. Our local governments and service organizations continue to work extraordinarily hard to find solutions.” said Josh Burgess, COCAP co-founder and Program Lead at DemocracyNext.

“Too often, other regions delegate the task of helping homeless youth to a small group of leaders and fail to draw on the rich expertise and diversity of the whole community. The Deschutes County Civic Assembly gives us the chance to involve residents from all walks of life in prioritizing policies and resources, bringing us together around solutions that will be more legitimate and sustainable.”

“We’ve already seen a long history of success using the Civic Assembly model in the US – including a wave of Citizens’ Juries in the 1970s, Oregon’s very own Citizens’ Initiative Review, and recent local Assemblies in Oregon and California,” said Linn Davis, Program Director at Healthy Democracy. “When we bring new voices into public decision-making and empower people with the right process, these processes produce political breakthroughs that we rarely see in traditional public engagement.”

“We have made significant strides in reaching out to our community through listening sessions and various events. Despite our efforts, we find that the feedback often comes from the same small group of about 25 individuals” said Bend Mayor Pro Tem Megan Perkins. “Knowledge fuels effective governance: the more informed we all are, the better our policies become, enriching civic engagement and shaping the future of our city. We look forward to hearing from a broader range of voices that better represent the entire community at the conclusion of this citizen's assembly process."

Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone added, “I support this civic assembly project that provides the opportunity for my fellow community members to learn about a topic and then provide guidance from the group's super intelligence that comes from working together.” The County Commission voted on June 24th to endorse the Civic Assembly as an innovative way to involve community members in preventing and ending youth homelessness.

Youth homelessness in Deschutes County has risen dramatically since 2020. The issue for this Assembly was chosen in discussions with local leaders from across the community.

Recipients of the mailers who want to participate should respond using the enclosed form by July 23rd, or reply online by July 28th at Assembly members will receive a stipend of $15 per hour; childcare and transportation costs will be covered if needed.

COCAP is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between Deschutes County, the City of Bend, the Regional Housing Council, Oregon State University–Cascades, and the nonprofits Healthy Democracy and DemocracyNext, supported by the Ford Family Foundation, Brooks Resources, Omidyar Network, Porticus, Quadrivium, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

COCAP will hold a Civic Lottery event on August 1st at 6pm at the Downtown Bend Public Library. All members of the public are invited to join for a conversation with local leaders and the exciting random selection of the Assembly members.

Read an FAQ about the Civic Assembly here.

Learn more at our website:

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