(Updated: adding video, comments from local government)
Deschutes County, Bend and Redmond one of eight pilot projects
REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Food banks needing volunteers, shelters at capacity, and camps on the side of the road. It's no secret Central Oregon has an increasingly visible homelessness issue. But a new bill proposed by a Bend lawmaker could change that, at the least improving coordination of the many efforts already underway here and elsewhere.
State Rep. Jason Kropf, D-Bend, will be proposing a bill (currently Legislative Concept 218 - LC218) that provides two years of state funding for communities around Oregon who adopt a regional approach to coordinating communities' response to homelessness.
The bill specifically names Deschutes County and the cities of Bend and Redmond as among the statewide pilots (all three as a single pilot program). It would give eight regions across Oregon $1 million each. Local officials have been discussing such a joint effort in recent months.
Bend City Councilor Melanie Kebler says this type of collaboration is necessary, to make good progress on the tough issues.
"It's really necessary, because we know the problem is not just a city problem -- in any one city," She said. "And so having the county work on it lets us be more efficient and lets us get more work done in a strategic way."
The proposed bill is not intended to duplicate existing work, and it's not supposed to take on the role of direct service delivery. But if the bill is passed by state lawmakers next month, local governments would:
- Work with regional partners to manage a homeless response office
- Create an oversight board
- Make a five-year strategic plan to identify gaps in homeless services
- Commit to continued funding
Redmond Mayor George Endicott says he's all for the legislation -- even though finding solutions to homelessness is an issue that has sharply divided the City Council in recent months. (Deschutes County and Bend, meanwhile, came to an initial agreement to crate just such a joint office.)
"The Redmond City Council said, 'We understand the problem, we're sympathetic to the problem, but we aren't the ones that have money to address the problem,'" he said. "The funding specifically for those kinds of issues rests with the county or the state."
"It was a bit controversial, but the final vote was that while we were sympathetic to it, it's not something that we should be funding," Endicott added, referencing a Redmond City Council meeting last year.
Bend Councilor Kebler says if passed, the bill could provide a missing piece in reducing homelessness in Central Oregon.
"It's a huge step in realizing the complexities of the issues that we're dealing with, and just what it's going to take to create a real strategic plan to achieve the goals we want to achieve," she said. "And then actually implement it and make sure we're following through with our goals."
The bill will be proposed during this year's legislative session, which begins Feb. 1.
At the Redmond City Council meeting next Tuesday evening, guests will discuss the nature and purpose of the bill, what it means to be one of the eight proposed pilot projects across Oregon and answer questions from councilors.