Homeless veterans are moving into Bend’s Veterans Village where they have private sleeping quarters and customized support services to help them get back on their feet.
For those who were homeless a few weeks ago, having a roof over their heads and people willing to help them find jobs and permanent housing are life-changing improvements.
On Wednesday, we got to meet a couple of the new residents.
“When you have a place to live it’s much easier and better to work and think than when you are living in a vehicle,” said Matthew Hockin.
Hockin served as a machinist’s mate aboard the aircraft carrier America in the 1980s.
After serving the country, Hockin had a good job in digital marketing but when COVID hit and the economy shut down, his work opportunities and income dried up.
“I was leasing a really nice house off Brookswood Boulevard and they sold it, so I ended up in a Suburban…living in a Chevy Suburban for five months.”
Robert Jarner served four years in the Air Force as a munitions systems specialist and then worked in warehouses as a forklift driver.
That work and his housing disappeared when the COVID pandemic hit.
Both veterans ended up working odd jobs and living in their cars to get by.
“I’m able to save a lot of money,” Jarner said. “When I was in my car, I was eating fast food all the time. My check would just be gone. Here I can buy food, cheaper and make it myself.”
“Each one has a case manager, and they identify the needs and wants of each veteran,” said David Nieradka, Veterans Village Coordinator.
“They come up with an individual service plan, goals and benchmarks. We are here to guide them on their journey.”
The first five vets moved into Veterans Village shortly after it was dedicated in November.
Another five will arrive in a few weeks.
Shortly thereafter, another five will fill the village to capacity.
“Unfortunately, I think there’s far more than 15 veterans out on the streets or in the camps,” Nieradka said. “But we are going to get 15 off the streets or out of the woods and that’s a start. Hopefully, this village catches on and we’ll see other villages pop up around central Oregon.”
The vets living in Veterans Village are required to meet with staff once a week to figure out their next steps.
“This is a new beginning for me. I get to restart a business or get new employment. I’m figuring that out right now,” Hockin said. “But I’ve also got a positive outlook because I’ve got a place to stay and I can start looking for a house to move into.”
So far, so good at Veterans Village.
The first veterans who moved in are pleased with the arrangements and support services they are receiving.
The community is responding as well.
Somebody recently donated a brand new snowblower to help them deal with the winter weather when it hits.