(Update: Adding video, comments from meeting)
Goal is to better coordinate efforts to deal with homeless issues
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Deschutes County commissioners and Bend city councilors met Thursday afternoon and made progress on coordinating their efforts at tackling the challenging problems of homelessness in the area.
While there are plenty of details to work out, they agreed on moving forward with a city-county "homelessness office" for improved coordination and collaboration.
“The main point was centralizing a place where we can have communications, where we can have policy development, where we can have strategy, and recognizing that both the county and the city want to take this on,” said Bend City Councilor Melanie Kebler.
Fellow councilors Anthony Broadman and Megan Perkins helped spark the concept of a centralized hub for tackling homeless issues by reaching out to Deschutes County commissioners with the idea.
“Everyone knew what the gaps were, we had a general ide. There’s just no one to hold on to that, learn more, plan around it, implement and support folks as direction changes or as strategy needs to change,” said Brittani Manzo, policy strategist and facilitator with the county's Emergency Homelessness Task Force.
Those involved in the meeting did agree that the homeless problem in the county is out of control and that a partnership has to be built between city and county leaders to deal with the issue.
“It's time for the city and the county to work closely together, and to be really effective in how we work together to support our service providers and to actually get real solutions on the ground as quickly as we can,” Kebler said.
The joint city and county homeless office would support partnerships, develop strategies, coordinate funding and lead improvements to assist with the homeless community.
Service providers say they are exhausted and at capacity with providing services to the homeless, and having a partnership with an office that oversees the issues would be helpful.
By the meeting's end, all involved agreed to move forward with the concept.
‘We saw that there is support for this idea," Kebler said. "Of course, there’s details to be worked out, but as a concept, this is an idea that both of our entities support and want to see move forward to the next step,” Kebler said.
As of now, the city of Bend is working on various projects to help the homeless community, such as managed homeless camps and villages.
Commissioners also reviewed projects that are under way using federal American Rescue Plan funding and whether there needs to be a "re-focus" on their use, with a discussion of both short- and long-term strategies.