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‘Pretty remarkable:’ Oregon city officials meeting in Bend tour and praise C.O. homeless projects

(Update: Adding video, comments from participants)

Meanwhile, Bend City Council asked to OK SE 27th Street temporary shelter contract

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Central Oregon leaders aren't the only ones searching for solutions to homelessness. It's a statewide, even national issue, and city leaders across the state are in Bend to learn from each other about what works.

The League of Oregon Cities is hosting its annual conference and business meeting in Bend this week. Nearly 1,000 attendees are in town, the largest annual gathering of municipal officials in Oregon.

Attendees toured some of Central Oregon's projects aimed at helping solve the homelessness crisis. They visited visited St. Vincent's Place before moving on to the Central Oregon Veterans Village.

The visiting mayors and city councilors say they were impressed with the homeless projects. Tom Horning, city councilor from Seaside, shared his thoughts about St. Vincent's Place.

"I think it's pretty remarkable that the city's been able to pull this together so quickly," Horning told NewsChannel 21 on Wednesday.

The group was taking pictures and asking questions. Most leaders NewsChannel 21 talked to say their communities have similar projects, but they're taking notes on what's worked here in Bend. Alex Johnson II, the mayor of Albany, said he's glad he was able to tour the projects.

"Seeing it here has been fantastic," said Johnson II. "So I'm taking a lot of pictures, and I can take that back. I think it's great -- I think St. Vincent's Place should be a model for other cities to emulate."

The visits are intended to help officials from other cities learn how to connect services to the homeless community.

Conference attendees include city officials and municipal decision-makers (mayors, city councilors, city managers, city department directors, etc.) from Oregon’s 241 incorporated cities.

Jessica Engelkey, the mayor of North Bend, is also grateful for her visit.

"What we've been able to see today on this tour of the League of Oregon Cities is what that looks like scaled up a bit, and with more of a permanent structure," Englekey said.

While attendees came from all over Oregon, they say there's a common denominatior -- homelessness is an issue all across the state.

"I'm really impressed with what's happening here in Bend," said Englekey. "People are starting to think outside of the box and come up with some solutions and know, that again, this is not an Oregon problem -- this is a national problem."

"So we all need to be paying attention to what's happening, pull together our minds and our resources, and come up with solutions together," she added.

More than 35 training sessions and tours are covering topics such as homelessness, emergency management, broadband, social media, succession planning, land use, cybersecurity, affordable housing, recruitment and retention, and diversity, equity and inclusion.

Meanwhile, the Bend City Council is being asked Wednesday evening to approve an amended contract using $1.4 million in federal American Rescue Plan and Deschutes County funding for Central Oregon Villages’ planned 20-pallet, “high-barrier” temporary outdoor shelter on property owned by Desert Streams Church on Southeast 27th Street.

The Phase 1 contract involved community outreach that drew "significant feedback" and led to some changes in the plans, including the level of staffing supervision, according to Affordable Housing Coordinator Amy Fraley’s council issue summary, which you can read below.

Article Topic Follows: Bend

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Carly Keenan

Carly Keenan is a multimedia journalist and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Carly here.


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