The Rainbow Motel near Downtown Bend might not look like much from the outside, but for Bend City Councilors, it’s a window to endless possibilities.
Council has had their eye on the motel at 154 NE Franklin Ave. for nearly a year, initially eyeing it as a potential subject for Project Turnkey funds.
Wednesday night, they voted to purchase the motel and its 1.03-acre property for $4.55 million.
For the next two to three years, its future is mapped out.
“The city anticipates using the property as a low-barrier shelter beginning in late spring or early summer 2022,” Councilor Megan Perkins announced over the City of Bend YouTube channel Thursday morning.
They hope the property purchase will be complete in March or April, but before then, they plan to enlist a nonprofit to run the shelter.
“We need to engage a service provider who will actually run this to serve people who are experiencing homelessness,” Councilor Anthony Broadman told Central Oregon Daily News on Thursday.
“The city doesn’t operate shelters for people experiencing homelessness. It’s an important partnership that we share with people who are really experts at that…service providers, public health folks, behavioral health folks, who are going to make sure that once people can use this as a shelter, that they succeed and we’re ensuring that we’re a good neighbor to everybody in the area.”
Council anticipates the low-barrier shelter will accommodate 40 to 60 beds.
The process to find the right nonprofit will involve requests for proposals and qualifications, in order to determine who is most capable of running a facility of that size.
“It’s not something that any service provider can simply take on,” Broadman said.
The costs of turning the motel into a shelter are still unknown.
“My hope is that there’s not too much work to get done before it’s able to be operated as a shelter,” Broadman said. “But all of that really remains to be seen as we go through the due diligence process.”
The two to three-year period for the shelter hinges on high hopes for the future of Bend’s houseless situation.
“The hope and the expectation is that in two to three years, we’ll have a clearer path to success, getting the numbers down of folks experiencing homelessness, putting them in a more sustainable path to a safer and more secure housing situation,” Broadman added.
After that, the site is one of several being considered by Council for either a new City Hall, more housing, or a public space.
They say that decision is still far away.
“This council has made very clear in its goals that the Bend central district is a key area for investment, both publicly and privately,” Broadman said. “In combination with the tax increment financing associated with this area, this is a really great potential area for civic investment.”