'This is a new beginning for me,' veteran Matthew Hockin said.
(Update: Adding video, comments from veteran residents, COVO Coordinator)
BEND, Ore., (KTVZ) -- From working in digital marketing and having financial security, to finding himself displaced during Covid, veteran Matthew Hockin is glad to have found a place of refuge at the Central Oregon Veterans Village on the north end of Bend.
“I ended up living in a Chevy Suburban for five months and seven days," Hockin said Tuesday. "This is a new beginning for me. It just enables me to recuperate and start again."
Hockin served in the Navy as a machinist mate on the aircraft carrier USS America from 1987 to 1989. He is one of five veterans who have settled into Veterans Village so far.
The community provides shelter and important services for homeless veterans. The services include health services (behavioral and physical), social service programs (geared toward self-sufficiency), employment training and skill building, and housing placement.
Veteran Robert Jarner said he had been searching for places to live, to no avail. Similar to Hockin, he lived out of his car for a few months.
But with the bitter cold of winter coming, and his health concerns, he needed something more.
“The lease came up, and I tried to get another place to go, and I couldn’t get anybody to even respond to an email," Jarner said. "I had enough money to rent a room, but trying to get an apartment around here is like pulling teeth.”
Jarner served in the Air Force as a munition system specialist from 1985 to 1989. He still works five days a week, doing laundry service at a hotel, but no longer with the burden of wondering where to lay his head at night.
The Veterans Village project is a collaboration between the Bend Heroes Foundation and Central Oregon Veterans Outreach.
It's being managed as a public-private partnership with the City of Bend, Deschutes County and the State of Oregon.
David Nieradka, the Central Oregon Veterans Village coordinator, said COVO has a history of housing homeless veterans. They have 28 housing units across Central Oregon.
“The way I see it, if we have a veteran that spends one night on the street or one night in the car, that’s one night too many," Nieradka said.
Jarner added, “You can’t forget, especially for the veterans. I mean, there are other people out there that still need help, too. But the veterans -- they did a service for you. Why can’t you do something for them?”