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Deschutes County contracts with Bethlehem Inn for 6 shelter beds in program with Homeless Outreach Team

(Update: Adding video, comments from shelter, program officials

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Deschutes County Health Services Department is contracting with the Bethlehem Inn homeless shelter in Bend for six beds for use as needed by the county's Homeless Outreach Services Team.

Bethlehem Inn Executive Director Gwenn Wysling said Thursday, "It's no cost to (program participants). They get three hot meals a day, clothing, hope, and connection to so many different resources, because they have a safe and secure place to be."

Current Bethlehem Inn resident Skyler Olson said he feels it's a great idea to add six extra beds to the shelter: "That's good news. I do think they're needed (the beds). I also think more shelters like the Bethlehem Inn are needed."

The contract approved by county commissioners Wednesday will reimburse the Bethlehem Inn for up to $70 per night per bed for six beds.

Wysling said the $70 a night will cover costs for daily expenses, as clients are housed free of charge. "Utilities, our program staff, also an integral part of the case management relationship with our residents on accountability."

With the Bethlehem Inn relying mostly on donations, Wysling is hopeful the grant will help to house more people in need. "No. 1, we look to our donors. Social media works great. We had some of our donors work together, and a book club was talking about homelessness. They (the book club) got us new washers and dryers when we needed them." 

The county's Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST) provides direct street outreach and case management support to individuals with serious mental illness and/or substance use disorders who are experiencing homelessness. 

HOST supervisor Colleen Thomas explained why she's excited for the grant money and shelter beds, amid other similar programs to help those seeking to move out of homelessness.

"To be able to provide those folks some more stability, a change in scenery, with wrap-around services is really exciting -- continuing to provide this access resource to vulnerable community members, so that we can really kind of get folks to a place of sustainability and success in their treatment."

HOST Program Manager Kara Cronin told the commissioners in an issue summary that HOST will arrange treatment, care and safety plans before they are placed at the shelter, which will provide case management services and establish self-sufficiency action plans.

The county will reimburse the shelter for the six beds, at a flat rate of $12,775 a month, according to the information provided to the board.

The funding for the additional beds comes from a state grant tied to Measure 110, which is to provide addiction treatment services and decriminalized small amounts of certain drugs.

The maximum compensation over the course of the agreement is not to exceed $153,300.

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County

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Blake Mayfield

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