▶️ NW Newport Avenue is open after two years of construction

Early Friday morning, the North West Newport Avenue corridor was opened. Everyone Central Oregon Daily spoke with was happy about the opening, particularly the local businesses that have been in the middle of it for the last two years. 

Newport Avenue Market CEO Lauren Redman told us, she is glad the impacts of the construction were not worse.

“We’re just really happy that we didn’t have to lay anybody off,” Redman said.

Other businesses we spoke with, like Gather Hair Collective and Chow, were relieved. 

“Definitely thrilled to be open,” Janelle Derven, Manager of Gather Hair Collective said. “It was a little chaotic because things would be changing on a frequent basis.”

We asked Principle Engineer for the City of Bend, Brittany Barker, about the frequent changes.

“We started this project in April 2021 really in the midst of a lot of the impacts that we didn’t see coming with supply chain issues and staffing shortages,” Barker said.

Even with the unexpected bumps in the road, the project was always predicted to take two years.

“We had failing storm drains that we had to replace,” Barker said. “After looking through the corridor further we saw that the sewer line was over 50 years old and our water line was over 70 years old.”

Construction started and “the entire west side was basically shut down,” according to Chow’s Executive Chef Jesc Miller.

He added businesses had to adapt for survival. 

“We had to do what we had to do: to-go orders and stuff,” said Miller. “But the thing now that it’s open, is that people are still going to pass through us because everyone is used to it being closed.”

Other improvements to the area include new sidewalks, bike lanes and crosswalks. 

Businesses said they are happy about the new safety components but wish communication about the project had been better. 

“So many cooks in the kitchen or whatever you want to call it because it wasn’t just the City, it was Taylor Construction, it was this and that so there was still a lot things that we ended up being out of the loop on that were pretty frustrating,” Derven said.

The important thing is that Newport Avenue construction is officially over. 

“We’re thankful for our customers that sustained us through the really tough times, and now, hey lets party. It’s summer in Bend,” Redman said. 

Crews will still be around throughout the month of June working on irrigation and landscaping, and the road will remain open. 

▶️ YouTuber ‘Mr. Humanity’ to host $100K contest at Blockbuster: What we know

You might have seen it online: claims of a massive party and a chance to win $100,000 in front of Bend’s famous last Blockbuster Video store. 

Is it real?

Here’s the claim from Mr. Humanity, Anthony Mattera. He’s a YouTuber with 21,000 followers: “We are giving away a lot of money to people.”

Mattera records videos giving away money to people. Next week, he will be doing the same thing in Central Oregon, hosting a block party on June 2 from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. in the parking lot at Blockbuster

“The events are backed by an insurance company, and when someone wins the event, they get paid out,” said Mattera.

>>> Central Oregon Daily News is on YouTube. Click here to subscribe and share our videos.

RELATED: WATCH: Bend Blockbuster debuts apocalyptic ‘Til The Bitter End’ Super Bowl ad

RELATED: Thanks, Steve: Bend Blockbuster booming in merch sales after cockroach ad

Fundraisers like hole-in-one contests that give away a car are often backed by insurance policies covering the cost of the car on the off chance someone hits that hole-in-one. 

So what’s the contest Mr. Humanity is hosting? He told us “no comment,” when initially asked about the financial side of it.

Mattera would not tell us any real details about the $100,000 on the line, but Blockbuster’s General Manger Sandi Harding weighed in. 

“It’s a game of chance,” said Harding. “So they just have to come in and pick six random numbers, and if they’re the lucky ones, they’re going to win. We have four other games as well that we’re playing. Ones a dice roll and they get to win some money as well as some movie trivia kind of games.”

Three nonprofits were invited to this event as well: Saving Grace, the Humane Society of Central Oregon and Emma’s Project. 

The two we got a hold of seemed confused about the event. We asked Mr. Humanity to clarify. 

“The nonprofits are going to benefit from this event just strictly from the brand awareness and the foot traffic and the monetary donations that the people give on that day,” Mattera said. 

The event hosts claim no one will be asked to pay for a chance at the $100,000 prize. But some sponsors, according to Mr. Humanity, already paid for a chance at the 50,000 and 25,000 contests happening at the same event. 

▶️ Wyden in Bend to applaud affordable housing complex for seniors

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., stopped by Bend Tuesday morning to talk about the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) being used to create affordable housing in Central Oregon. The Legacy Landing Apartments, built with LIHTC money, has been operating for about a year near St. Charles Hospital. 

“Wonderful projects like this were a natural for older people because they could stay where they wanted most: in their home,” Wyden said. 

He added that this was not just an ethical move, but a good financial one as well. 

“It was such a cost effective idea to ensure that older people could be in the community getting good care rather than getting sick and having the alternative which so often we know was long term care,” Wyden said.

>>> Central Oregon Daily News is on YouTube. Click here to subscribe and share our videos.

RELATED: Old Rainbow Motel in Bend opens as a homeless shelter — again

RELATED: Coordinated Houseless Response Office goals being met? Depends who you ask.

Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler explained what is possible when this kind of housing exists in Central Oregon. 

“[The Legacy Landing Apartments] provides 47 apartments for low-income seniors who are making or receiving 50% of the area median income or less with six apartments reserved for Mosaic Medical for patients with chronic medical conditions and four available for houseless veterans,” Kebler said. 

Deborah “Snow” Jones, a 66-year-old resident of the apartments, was the first person living in the property.

“Being here is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Jones said.

She has benefitted a lot since moving in. Jones says she has experienced homelessness and was in a severe car accident two years ago, which left her injured and without options. This opportunity has given her a second chance at life.

“I walk into my apartment, I look back and I go, ‘Wow, I have a bathroom. Wow, there’s a walk-in shower. I go into my living room back and forth- what can I do here?’ It’s like being in a candy store and it’s Christmas everyday,” she said.

▶️ Coordinated Houseless Response Office goals being met? Depends who you ask.

Deschutes County’s Coordinated Houseless Response Office (CHRO), funded by a $1 million grant, has requirements that need to be met.

Are those goals being met? Well, that depends on who within CHRO you ask.

Deschutes County Commissioner Patti Adair is the chair of the board that oversees CHRO. Cheyenne Purrington is the CHRO director.

Adair said “it’s debatable” when asked if Purrington was accomplishing what she has been asked to do by the board.

When we pressed Adair on what exactly the board has asked Purrington to do, she said, “Well we’ve had lots of questions. Originally I asked for a budget, so we did see a budget. We’ve asked for a lot of things.”

Aside from establishing a budget, holding a planning meeting and helping with a Central Oregon Villages project, Adair could not point to an accomplishment so far from the $1 million grant.

The CHRO has just one full-time staff member. That’s Purrington.

Chris Ogren is a part-time employee helping out. He’s working about 15 hours a week, according to Purrington. 

Purrington told us the office is on track with the grant requirements. She claims over half of the goals are completed, but more could be done if she had more help. She said she has requested two full-time staff members aside from herself. 

Adair, after being asked three times if she was aware of the staffing requests, gave this as her clearest answer:

“There is somebody else on her list, but I don’t believe anything has gone out for that position,” Adair said.

Bend City Councilor Megan Perkins, who is also the vice-chair of the CHRO board, says she thinks the process could be more developed by now.

“I do have a lot of frustration and worry that we are not farther along with both our strategic plan but also just in general with the coordinated office and our community,” said Perkins.

She’s clearly frustrated with a lack of progress.

“I don’t feel fully comfortable in that I understand what happens with the coordinated office every day,” Perkins said.

As for one thing that could make operations better, a requirement written into the grant that was supposed to be done in the first 90 days includes defining roles for each board member. Perkins said that goal not been met.

“We really need to, on a fundamental level, determine what the City of Bend does, what the City of Redmond does, what the county does, and then we can go from there,” Perkins said.

▶️ Bend ride share Bird Bikes are back for the summer

After being in storage for the winter, ride share Bird Bikes are back in Bend. 

“I think they are a great source of transportation. I don’t like that they are left all over town,” Meliah Rutherford of Bend said. 

This is the most consistent opinion Central Oregon Daily received about the electric bikes now that they are back.

“There seems to be a better way to communicate where they can be dropped off and picked up instead of abandoning them in people’s neighborhoods,” Rutherford said. 

>>> Central Oregon Daily News is on YouTube. Click here to subscribe and share our videos.

RELATED: Fines and incentives coming to Bird Bike rentals

RELATED: First weekend of Bend bike sharing service brings littering concerns

According to the City of Bend’s Parking Services Division Manager Tobias Marx, the Bird Bike app shows appropriate parking locations for the bikes once a person is done with their ride.

“I think the biggest obstacles are preventing people from leaving bikes where they shouldn’t be left,” Marx said. “We don’t want bikes to block ADA access. We don’t want bikes to block sidewalks.”

He also told us that the general rule is to at least park the bikes at a Bend public bike parking spot if, for some reason, someone cannot get it back to a designated space.

We spoke with one Bend man who bikes all the time and he loves to see people riding Bird Bikes. 

“I think it’s a great idea,” Russell Heinold said. “You get outside, it’s really cost efficient when you think about it and it’s really good on the roads too because of the traffic here in Bend is just becoming more like city traffic.”

Another woman has her mind on traffic, too. Marty Verlinich isn’t so sure about bikers and cars sharing the road.

“Well you have to obey all the traffic laws,” Verlinich said. “You can’t just ride through a light because you don’t want to stop.”

While some bikers might not follow the rules of the road, it doesn’t mean all of them don’t. 

“People sometimes are people unfortunately and do stupid stuff,” Marx said.

The Bird Bikes are here to stay. More ride share locations are expected to expand into the east side of Bend over the summer.

▶️ Old Rainbow Motel in Bend opens as a homeless shelter — again

The Bend City Council approved new management Wednesday of the Franklin Shelter, or the old Rainbow Motel off of Franklin Avenue, under Shepherd’s House Ministries. NeighborImpact was running a shelter out of the motel temporarily. 

“NeighborImpact was going to be running that shelter for us while those renovations were happening,” Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler said. “They moved folks to the Rainbow Motel. And then when the renovations were done and the Stepping Stone Shelter was officially open, they moved those folks back and they’re now running the stepping stone shelter.”

Unlike other shelters in the area, the Franklin Shelter will not be a congregate shelter.

“It’ll be a transitional shelter,” Shepherd’s House Director of Navigation Services Evan Hendrix said. “Folks will either have a private room to themselves or two to three roommates at the most.”

>>> Central Oregon Daily News is on YouTube. Click here to subscribe and share our videos.

There are 60 rooms in total, meaning 60 to 80 people are expected to be housed there. 

Each room has a bathroom and is in walking distance from the Lighthouse Navigation Center — also operated by Shepherd’s House — which provides resources for the houseless.

With three shelters in the same area, we asked Kebler if she has seen any push back from the community.

“When the Rainbow was first being used for a shelter and we talked to the community about that, we established some really good agreements and understandings with the nearby business owners and neighbors,” Kebler said. “Throughout the time that was running as a shelter previously, we had some really good results being able to work with people about their concerns and being able to resolve those.”

RELATED: COIC picks 7 Central Oregon homeless projects for state money

RELATED: Homeless village for women, families begins building in SE Bend

It will be a low barrier shelter meaning the requirements to stay in the shelter are minimal, but there will be a background check process on residents. 

“This is going to be through the Coordinated Entry System,” Kebler said. “Shepherd’s House will be matching up people that are the right fit for this type of shelter and have the needs that this type of shelter can provide.”

The City of Bend is in contract with Shepherd’s House to run the shelter for the next 18 months. 

People are expected to be housed in the old motel as early as next week.

▶️ COIC picks 7 Central Oregon homeless projects for state money

The Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC) is sifting through applications of those looking to receive funding from the $200 million Governor Tina Kotek authorized to fight homelessness.

Central Oregon has been awarded nearly $14 million of that. Nonprofits and city governments are among those making requests.

“A project in Madras, a project in Redmond, a project in Bend. Really, a good group of projects that out of the gate will give a sharing of that funding across the region,” said COIC Executive Director Tammy Baney.

So many projects, in fact, that it would cost $21 million. That’s $7 million more than the governor is allocating for the High Desert.

COIC is picking seven projects to move forward with at this point.

“We know we need to serve veterans. We need to serve out medically fragile. We also need to serve LGBTQ+ youth,” said Baney.

>>> Central Oregon Daily News is on YouTube. Click here to subscribe and share our videos.

One of the biggest allocations of funds is going to the City of Madras.

“This will be a 29 bed facility. It’ll be a shelter that’ll have a congregate kitchen area facility as well. They intend to do some affordable housing in that area too,” said Baney.

RELATED: Homeless village for women, families begins building in SE Bend

RELATED: Construction begins on Redmond’s first low-barrier homeless shelter

Eleven other projects are in the works, but the council needs more information about their proposals.

“We will be working with those projects to get the questions answered and then we are coming up with a mechanism in which we might be able to fund them before we do another funding allocation,” said Baney.

She says Crook County has not filled out an application for any of the state money.

“We’re working closely with that community to make sure that they are represented and funded with the funding, too, to support their needs,” said Baney.

While the money does not have to be spent all at once, it does need to be committed to projects by January 2024.

MAC Meeting 8 Supporting Slides

▶️ Homeless village for women, families begins building in SE Bend

After two years of paperwork and approvals, a village for the unhoused — managed by Central Oregon Villages (COV) — is beginning construction behind Desert Streams Church in Southeast Bend.

Soon, 20 shelters for the homeless will sit behind the church in the vicinity of SE 27th Street and Bear Creek Road. COV expects the village to start housing people by the end of the month.

According to COV Executive Director Nicky Merritt, this will be transitional housing prioritizing women and families.

“We got permits in March,” Merritt said. “We’re about to do all the ground work, get electricity in here, and this is kind of our final step: getting these shelters put together.”

>>> Central Oregon Daily News is on YouTube. Click here to subscribe and share our videos.

The shelter structures themselves have walls and ceilings that can be picked up by groups of volunteers and screwed into place. 

Amenities will also be included for those who stay in the village.

“We have been donated a shower bathroom trailer,” Merritt said. “Forge school is building us a kitchen trailer which folks will be able to prepare their meals in.”

RELATED: Construction begins on Redmond’s first low-barrier homeless shelter

RELATED: 2 Redmond safe parking locations near Highway 97 approved

The space will have two different shelter sizes. The majority will be 64 square feet and a few will be 100 square feet. The larger ones will be set aside for families. 

People living in the shelter will be referred to as ‘participants,’ not ‘residents,’ in order to avoid tenant/landlord vocabulary, Merritt explained. 

Some participants have already been selected.

“We let service providers in the area know we were looking for women over the age of 50 that were clean and sober and able to pass a background check,” Merritt said.

Three women who match this description have been chosen. 

“After that, we open it up to women that have experienced domestic violence, so we have one younger woman coming in,” Merritt said. 

A family of five, currently living in their car, are also being given the opportunity to stay in one of these shelters. 

We spoke with a volunteer with Heart of Oregon Youth Build, Branden Kunkel, who was helping out with the build. He was born and raised in Bend. 

“It is of significance for me because I live here,” Kunkel said. “I really like seeing the community grow as more and more people move here, but with higher population obviously comes more problems, homelessness being one of them.”

He finds purpose in volunteering for projects like this.

“I just think that serving the overall community by keeping it clean, giving people somewhere to stay and just all around providing humanitarian aid,” Kunkel said. 

▶️ 15th and Wilson roundabout is opening, but more Wilson construction soon

After about three months of construction, the 15th Street and Wilson Avenue intersection in Bend is now a completed roundabout. It replaces the intersection where making left turns off Wilson were often a dangerous struggle.

Southeast Bendites told us they are happy the project is done. Lani Gibson, who relies on the bus, said she has not been able to use it since the construction began.

“It’ll be such a change to get our bus stop back,” Gibson said. “It’ll be a big change in our life and financially, it’ll help both of us very much.”

Now that the construction is over, Gibson will have her bus back.

“It has caused some hardships, but I guess everything is going to be pretty good after today,” Joe Nelson, another Southeast Bend resident said. 

>>> Have you checked out Central Oregon Daily News on YouTube? Click here to subscribe and share our videos.

RELATED: 45 mph limit in effect on Highway 26 west of Warm Springs due to rough road

RELATED: Why so many Bend road projects happening at once? Drivers voice opinions.

However, more construction for Wilson Avenue is on the way. The westbound lane on Wilson between 4th and 9th Street will be closed starting Monday or Tuesday.

“You’ll have to go down to Reed Market and take it over to 3rd Street there,” Senior Project Engineer for the City of Bend Sinclair Burr said. “We’re putting in bike lanes, sidewalks, a new waterline and a lot of new storm infrastructure.”

Just a few blocks east, Pettigrew Road will also close beginning Monday. 

“There’s a lot of sewer work,” Burr said. “They are trying to get people from there septic systems over to our sewer system and then that closure will extend through the fall.”

Nelson summed up how he felt about the road construction with: “Just go ahead and get it done.”

▶️ Construction begins on Redmond’s first low-barrier homeless shelter

Redmond’s homeless population will soon have a low-barrier, year-round shelter as Shepherd’s House Ministries expands its services.

“We’re taking a really big step forward by establishing a facility in Redmond. Not only where we can offer shelter and meals and showers, but where we’ll welcome other service providers into the building to meet with our clients and help them take those next steps forward,” Redmond City Director for Shepherd’s House Andrew Hoeksema said. 

This space will be the first low-barrier option in Redmond.

“We operate as a low-barrier provider which means we try to minimize the rules or burdens we place on people and really just be a safe connecting place for them,” Hoeksema said. 

>>> Central Oregon Daily News is on YouTube. Click here to subscribe and share our videos.

RELATED: 2 Redmond safe parking locations near Highway 97 approved

RELATED: ODOT continues clean-up of homeless camp off Revere Ave. in Bend

Minimizing the rules does not mean there aren’t any. Unhoused individuals will not be allowed to bring in drugs, alcohol or weapons. 

The shelter will have 44 beds with distinct men’s and women’s facilities. Families experiencing homelessness will also have the option of staying in one of three separate rooms.

Meals, showers and additional resources will be offered during the day. Hoeksema said the goal is to work with other service providers to offer as much help as possible to those who want it. 

Central Oregon Daily went to NE 17th Street in Redmond, where a sizable homeless population has settled. Out of the three people we spoke with, none of them said they would be interested in living in a shelter. 

After asking one of them, Joe, why he would not want this option, he said, “Well because of my dog and my RV. Everything I own is in there.”

He has lived on 17th for two years. 

“Pretty much don’t have no rules out here,” he said. “They just do what they want.”

While he prefers to stay on the streets, he said others might be intrigued by the new option. 

“I wouldn’t, but there might be some people that do,” he said. 

Initially, the shelter will only be open as an overnight shelter, with plans to expand to 24-hour operations.