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What’s next for Deschutes County’s Coordinated Houseless Response Office? It’s unclear, so far

(Update: Adding video)

Governing board re-evaluating structure following director's resignation

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Friday marks Cheyenne Purrington's last official day working for Deschutes County. After nearly a year on the job, the former director of the county's Coordinated Houseless Response Office submitted her resignation in late May.

Now, the officials who oversee the CHRO and its efforts are still trying to form a plan to tackle Central Oregon's houseless issue.

The board of directors -- made up of elected officials from Bend, Redmond, Sisters, and La Pine, as well as a county commissioner -- met on May 30th to discuss what's next for the office.

Megan Perkins, a Bend city councilor who sits on the office's board, explained earlier this week where the office stands at present.

"I think right now we're in a transition period," Perkins said. "We're really thinking and learning from lessons of the past and trying to figure out what we can do better to make this office more successful in the future."

At the May 30th meeting, the governing board created three subcommittees to split up responsibilities: governance, leadership and strategic planning.

Perkins told NewsChannel 21 Tuesday how apparent gaps in the office's structure are causing delays in progress.

"I think the thing we keep running into and the problem we keep running into is who does what in this community?" she said. "What do service providers do, what do cities do, what do counties do, who funds it?"

The governance subcommittee will look at roles and responsibilities and determine if the office stays under Deschutes County, or be housed under a different entity, such as the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council.

How the leadership structure looks and the interim plan will be addressed by the leadership subcommittee.

The strategic plan subcommittee will continue working on the strategic plan document -- which is due to the State of Oregon by the end of August, in order to keep the $1 million in legislative funding.

NewsChannel 21 reporter Carly Keenan asked Perkins if she felt the meetings the board was having now should have happened nearly a year ago. Perkins' response -- a simple yes.

While the office no longer has a director, Perkins says the board hasn't discussed filling the position yet.

"It takes a long time to hire someone, and it takes a long time to hire someone good. And we still haven't really evaluated what we want the structure of that office to look like from a staff perspective," Perkins said. "So the first immediate need is who can we get in place now to help out, so we don't lose momentum moving forward."

Despite being back at the drawing board to a certain extent, the office's chair, Deschutes County Commissioner Patti Adair, is still hopeful.

"We're feeling fine. I know we're going to go forward. I'm feeling good about it," Adair said. "I feel we've made some progress. Even though it might not look like it to you, I know there are some good things that are happening."

The Coordinated Houseless Response Office's Board of Directors' next meeting is on June 15th.

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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