The patch of land behind the Sonic Drive-In in Madras may not look like much, but for the Jefferson County Faith-Based Network, it’s a chance to see their dreams come to light.
A $2.5 million state-of-the-art homeless shelter and service facility is slated for construction in the 0.66-acre space at 61 NW Oak St.
The project is the brainchild of Executive Director Anthony Mitchell and the coordinator of their current winter shelter, Pat Abernathy.
“Out of those initial conversations over the past year and half has come this vision to become more than a winter shelter,” Mitchell said.
Over the past four years, the network has moved their seasonal shelter into any space they can find, keeping up operations between mid-November and mid-March each year.
They offer 15 beds in their current building on the south end of town.
“This year, we’ve served about 95 people so far,” Mitchell said. “Clients will come in, they’ll get a dinner meal…we will in the morning serve a breakfast, and we’ll send our clients out with a hot lunch.”
Last year’s Point-In-Time homeless count showed there were 76 people living on the streets in Jefferson County and the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.
Abernathy said before the shelter was offered, there were hardly any other options for homeless people in Madras.
“There was a men’s home, but it was more of a permanent home…basically there was nothing for them,” she said.
Now, they are planning to build what they believe will be the first facility in town to offer both a shelter and social services under the same roof.
“We will be doing what we call a variety of personal care services. It could be foot care, it could be hair cuts, it could be laundry services,” Mitchell explained.
“The heart of the future vision lies in getting people getting connected and engaged with the case management role that we’ll be hiring, and that will be a role that will really be designed to interact with the client to really understand their needs, what are barriers or challenges in their life that might lead to their condition of being unhoused or unsheltered, and then doing contemporary case management to connect with other organizations and services in the community.”
The new facility’s location was partially based on accessibility to resources and distance from schools and neighborhoods.
Abernathy said it also makes sense due to its proximity to long-time homeless campers.
“It’s amazing, because they already congregate in that area. They have historically…hung out back behind the businesses that are there,” she said.
“We’re going basically onto their turf by being able to procure that property and put a service center there. It will greatly centralize what we do.”
The approximately 3,700 square foot structure will be funded through a combination of grants and federal funds, adding 25 new beds for the homeless during the winter and summer months.
Mitchell said he hopes it will help fill the service gaps that exist in the Madras community.
“Larger communities such as Bend and Deschutes County, because of just the size, there’s more organizations that are in the mix helping,” he said. “There’s probably a better linkage of service providers. Where here, we are the primary service provider.
While they are the only Madras organization whose sole focus is homelessness, Mitchell said Best Care and Mosaic Medical contribute to mental health and medical care.
He said the support of the Madras community has been invaluable and that most of their meals during the winter months are provided by various organizations and individuals, which he estimates has saved the shelter around $30,000.
Abernathy said she’s encouraged by the progress they’ve made to help the homeless over the past four years.
“I think after four years, being able to see such wonderful results, it’s an incredible feeling,” she said. “We’re very fueled by loving, passionate people.”
She believes the atmosphere of respect and love they foster at the shelter has gone a long way in the lives of the people they serve.
“It’s not uncommon for me to go into stores and see people that I call my ‘alumni’ because they no longer need us…I like to stay connected on a heart level with those people because we’re part of their transformation back into a productive life. And it’s extremely rewarding to see that.”
The environmental assessment for the property is nearly complete, and construction is estimated to begin in January of next year.
The shelter is expected to be fully built by fall of 2023.