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Gov. Kotek, C.O. officials say they are ‘committed to working together with urgency’ on shelter options before winter

(Update: Kotek, local officials issue joint statement)

Explains why she's insisting managed camps be within urban areas

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- After a three-day visit to Central Oregon late last week, Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek and several local officials issued a joint statement Monday, saying they are "committed to working together with urgency" to find sheltering locations before winter for Deschutes County's homeless.

Here's the full joint statement from the governor's office on behalf of Kotek, Deschutes County Commissioner Patti Adair, Bend Mayor Pro Tem Megan Perkins and Redmond Mayor Ed Fitch:

"Our conversation last week made clear that Oregon’s housing and homelessness crisis impacts every part of the state and requires urgent leadership across all levels of government. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Deschutes County has unique challenges when it comes to addressing unsheltered homelessness, which has become increasingly acute and visible in recent years.

"Our best chance at moving individuals out of homelessness is to provide a clear path to transitional housing, rehousing, support and wrap around services. As city, county, and state leaders, we recognize the need to build more housing and to provide practical alternatives to tent camping such as safe park sites and tiny houses that meet health and safety standards and steward Oregon’s land use system.  

"We are committed to working together with urgency as winter approaches to ensure safe, accessible sheltering options for Deschutes County."

Last Thursday, Kotek met with local leaders to discuss this and other issues, then paid a visit Thursdayt to Shepherd's House Ministries' almost completed Redmond shelter, talking with reporters about a multitude of issues facing the region, from homelessness and managed homeless camp sites to drought concerns.

"This morning, we started off in Prineville, and had a wonderful breakfast with local leaders," Kotek said Thursday afternoon.

The governor made several stops over three days as part of her "One Oregon Listening Tour," as she plans to visit every county during her first year in office.

Kotek met with the Latino Community Association at City Hall and had a discussion over lunch with Deschutes County Commissioner Patti Adair, Redmond Mayor Ed Fitch and Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler, talking about issues from education to housing and St. Charles Health System's possible withdrawal from Medicare Advantage plans.

Kotek recently held an online meeting with Fitch, Adair and Kebler, discussing the possibilities of opening two managed homeless camps in Deschutes County. During the August 14th call, the governor told the local leaders she wouldn't support a managed camp outside of Bend and Redmond's urban growth boundaries.

"I'm not supportive of going outside the UGB" to site managed camps, Kotek said Thursday, "because I think it sets a bad precedent for the entire state," referring to "functional challenges" such rural locations pose.

But Kotek said she's well aware shelters aren't for everyone in such situations and that managed camps need to be a part of the solution.

"Some individuals aren't going to want to be in a place where there's too many other people," Kotek explained. "They've been through a lot, they might have mental health issues, so these managed villages are a very, very important part of the continuum. I'm supportive of that. The state dollars can be used for that kind of sheltering."

We asked the governor why she would only support managed camps in the UGBs.

"I think the hardest challenge of siting a camp outside the urban growth boundary is distance from services," Kotek said "It gets more expensive, the further you're out. Do you have electrical? Do you have plumbing?"

Within the boundaries, she said, "You're more likely to be closer to where you can really get those core utilities and things that you need."

The governor voiced similar issues allowing more housing outside UGBs, saying not just land but infrastructure is needed, and costlier outside of the urban areas.

The governor took a tour of the new Shepherd's House Redmond facility, which is nearly done and should be ready to open this fall, according to Dave Notari, director of development.

Kotek also met with area service providers to discuss the homelessness issue and praised the region for its "strong plan, strong partnerships that are really making things happen here."

"We had a large roundtable about how the homeless services (are), where the community is, where they want to go," Kotek said, adding that she is "super-impressed with the partnerships" that have been created and that "the county is doing a lot right."

'I think what we have to see from all of our county leaders around the state is to be willing to take risks … because the size of the crisis is so large, that we have to do things differently."

The governor also discussed recent controversies surrounding the Point In Time Count, and whether she feels it's an accurate representation of certain areas' homeless issues.

County Commissioner Tony DeBone recently revealed the sheriff's office has paid homeless outreach consultant Kevin Dahlgren nearly $19,000 for their own homeless count report.

"I think we need to have transparency and accountability whenever we're doing that type of research," the governor said. "I'm going to rely on the tried and true methods that we've been using.

"Look, we also know those are undercounts," she added. "They're a starting point, and the PIT Count is what we're using across the state, so that's the standard that we'll be using for the services we're trying to fund."

Adair told us last week she still believes a proposed managed camp site at the Ward and Hamby road roundabout would work well, but it falls just outside of Bend's urban growth boundary.

Despite several locations proposed by the county being rejected for future managed camp sites, the governor says she will continue to work with Central Oregon leaders on establishing such managed camps in Bend and Redmond.

"We are looking at ODOT properties and other state properties, and see if we can be helpful in providing the land" for such a camp, Kotek said. "I hope we can figure it out. I think there are resources here to do it, and I'm here to be a cheerleader for that."

The CORE3 project on the east side of Redmond, a planned multi-agency emergency coordination and training facility, is a good fit and needed to prepare future crises, according to Kotek, although she said long-term funding still needs to be addressed.

There were no public events in Central Oregon to meet with the governor during her visit this week.

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics

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Blake Mayfield

Blake Mayfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.


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