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Special Report: Redmond’s Safe Parking Program offers path out of homelessness, gains continued funding

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- According to preliminary data from the Homeless Leadership Coalition's 2024 Point-In-Time Count, the number of homelessness in Redmond has declined from 262 people in January 2023 to 169 in January of this year.

Colton Hill was a former participant in the Safe Parking Program that allows nonprofits, businesses, and religions or public entities to provide a space for people experiencing homelessness. Now he helps others in the program seeking to succeed in their path to a safer, stable life. 

"Sixteen months ago, I was in Safe Parking," Colton recalled. "We lost our apartment, and we were living in a fifth-wheel, me and my wife."

Colton learned about Redmond's Safe Parking Program from his probation officer.

Deschutes County commissioners recently approved $200,000 to extend Redmond's Safe Parking Program operations through this year.

The money comes come from $2 million in American Rescue Plan funding reserved to address homelessness in east Redmond, Bend's Juniper Ridge to the north and the China Hat Road area south of the city.

The funding will largely support case managers, to help participants transition to more stable conditions.

County Commissioner Phil Chang said, "We saw last year that homeless numbers in Redmond went down for the first time in over a decade, and I know the Safe Parking Program and Mountain View Community Development was a piece of that.”

Fellow Commissioner Patti Adair said, “They’ve had great success. You know, you want to fund the things you see the results from."

Colton was in the program for four months with his wife and two children. 

"It gave me a safe place where I didn’t have to worry about people stealing my generator or my propane tanks, the very few things that I had at the time that made it possible for me to live,” he said.

Colton was facing an opioid addiction when he first arrived, and with the help of case managers and Deschutes County Behavioral Health, he entered a detox facility, then a sober living home so he could get back on his feet.

"It seems like Mount Everest, when you’re looking at it from the addiction or depression standpoint of things -- and it’s just a molehill. I had to do a 180-degree flip on my life.”

Now 15 months sober, Colton actually works for the Safe Parking Program as a peer support specialist, after receiving training at Central Oregon Community College.

Rick Russell, the executive director of Mountain View Community Development, manages the Safe Parking Program, which operates with a team of three case managers. 

"Our greatest expense is case managers to support the participants in the program,” he said.

They manage 29 spaces across seven sites, where those in need of a place to live can park.

“Individuals, families — we have a lot of families who prefer safe parking over a congregate shelter, or their family size is too large to fit into a micro-shelter,” Russell said. 

The program's newest site is at Community Presbyterian Church in Redmond, hosting two families since February.

The hope is they'll reach greater stability, just as Colton has. 

Article Topic Follows: Special Reports

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Bola Gbadebo

Bola Gbadebo is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Bola here.


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