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‘What we need’: Redmond church tries again to expand safe parking program with new downtown location

(Updated: adding video, comments from organizers, county commissioner, neighbor)

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- For nearly a year, Mountain View Fellowship Church and its community development group in Redmond have successfully operated the Redmond Safe Parking program. It gives people living in a vehicle and are seeking a safe, secure place to park with the goal to transition into permanent housing.

Organizers hand-pick participants for the program. It's mainly women and children, who are given case managers, sanitation services and tools to get back on their feet. Mountain View Fellowship offers spaces in its parking lot and the lot at Redmond's VFW Hall.

There's funding to provide 40 families a place to park, but it lacks the space to do so.

In recent months, Mountain View Fellowship has been looking to expand, but has had some challenges in expansion. In August, organizers faced plenty of backlash from the community and neighbors of a site being prepared at NW 19th and Pershall, on city-owned land, prompting the city to scrap those plans.

Now, organizers have proposed a new location -- this time on Deschutes County-owned property, at SE 7th Street and Evergreen Avenue in Redmond.

County Commissioner Phil Chang is a champion of the program and the proposed location.

"This is what we need. We don't need more unauthorized camping, we need real pathways to exit homelessness and Safe Parking is a great program to be able to do that," Chang told NewsChannel 21 on Thursday.

Organizers went door to door, notifying nearby neighbors about the proposed site. They say people have been receptive, but still have some concerns.

Redmond resident Utah Sullens is one of those neighbors. He lives right on the property and has for more than 50 years. Sullens has concerns with the location of the program.

"I don't know, because I've had so many dealings with the homeless here that it's kind of hard to manage that," Sullens said. "Plus I have a granddaughter who's living out there, and it's not that she can't get out of there -- it's that she doesn't want to get out of there."

Even though Redmond's safe parking is an authorized, quiet, and managed program, Sullens thinks it's risky.

"I kind of know how it's going to be different," he said. "I just don't know if it'll work."

Rick Russell, lead pastor of Mountain View Fellowship, says the community can look at the success of the program thus far.

"I have no incentive to invite something unsafe or unsanitary to my church, and I wouldn't ask any neighborhood to carry that burden, either," Russell said. "This is something we have first-hand experience at, and we know how it's going to operate, and we feel confident in it enough to put our own namesake out there -- to say that this is a credible program that really is going to help people move toward stability."

If approved, the program will run on a 90-day trial period with management of the site, participant agreement contracts, sanitation services and other metrics for success.

Neighbors were notified on Friday, with an invitation to an open house discussion next Monday evening about the planned 90-day trial period.

Here's the notification that was sent out:

The open house is on Monday at 6:30 pm.m at Mountain View Fellowship in Redmond.

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics
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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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