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C.O. officials visit Eugene to examine its efforts on homelessness

Proposing new initiative to address homelessness in Central Oregon

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Bend City Councilor Bruce Abernethy and five other Central Oregon representatives visited Eugene on Monday and Tuesday to learn how to better address homelessness in Bend and Central Oregon. 

Abernethy joined Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel, Kecia Weaver, the community outreach officer for the Bend Police Department; Colleen Sinsky, coordinated entry manager for the Homeless Leadership Coalition; Larry Kogovsek, a board member with Sagewood Sanctuary, and George Myers, an independent homelessnes consultant.

Abernethy spoke with NewsChannel 21 on Wednesday after returning to Bend to share what they learned during their trip.

“We are embarking upon an initiative here in Bend and Central Oregon to try to learn about what approaches and models are successful dealing with homelessness,” Abernethy said. 

The sites they visited in Eugene on Monday included St. Vincent de Paul and the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection. Both host homeless camps. By visiting those sites, Abernethy said the group of representatives hoped to learn how to better manage homelessness in Central Oregon. 

Abernethy said they' found that a number of smaller camps seem more effective than one large facility. It means authorities can find people quicker, but it could mean they have more people to manage overall.

"I think one of the other things that became clear is that even if you have the facility, even if you have the camp there, the importance of case management, the importance of working with people who are homeless, getting them connected to services they need, whether its physical health, mental health," he said.

"You know, help them get back in touch with a vocational rehab, an employment counselor, things along those lines, help them really re-engage, in a way."

The city is proposing an initiative called the Homeless Assessment and Solutions Project. As part of the initiative, the city is currently in what Abernethy calls the “research phase.”

He said the city hired Myers, the consultant, who is well-known within the homeless community, to collect the data.

“We’re trying to find the data of who’s homeless, how long were they homeless, why are they homeless, did they become homeless here, were they homeless somewhere else then moved here because they thought there might be services here?” Abernethy said.

The five steps included in the Homeless Assessment and Solutions Project are the following:

#1 Clarify and quantify the problem we are trying to solve

#2 Identify how our current situation compares to historic and future realities

#3 Map the people and organizations that are already working to address our homelessness and housing challenges and clarify their scope of work

#4 Research and document the successes and failures of other communities. 

#5 Develop a report that contains the findings from the four above steps with recommendations for what should be done (that is not already being done) to make Deschutes County a model community for alleviating the burden of homelessness.

Abernethy says the project won't solve homelessness but is intended to identify how the region could better address the issues.

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Rhea Panela

Rhea Panela is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Rhea here.


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