Central Oregon Villages is transitioning those out of homelessness into stable housing. The organization is celebrating its first graduate from the new Desert Stream location in southeast Bend.
“A leap of faith just to move out and know I am safe,” said April Lester about moving into the villages.
Lester says she was homeless for six years, three of them living on China Hat.
“Just to sleep at night and have a bed, you know, and not a floor or tent or whatever,” said Lester. “We had BBQs, birthday parties, things like that. So, it was nice to shower and to use a facility, a kitchen.”
The villages have two locations. The second one is at the Bend Church in Downtown.
It’s also a high-barrier shelter. Those living there must pass a background test and be drug and alcohol-free.
Throughout the stay, it is the same process Lester had to go through at the Desert Stream’s location.
Executive Director for Central Oregon Villages Nicky Merritt says these pods serve as transitional housing.
“We provide case management, weekly case management with folks, identifying what is keeping them out of long-term housing and then connect them with resources to overcome those barriers,” said Merritt.
Lester was one of the first to move into the villages. After about a month and a half, she graduated from the Desert Stream’s location into stable housing.
“We think this model is working,” Merritt said. “We think allowing them to have a safe place to be while they try to regroup and find a plan, and we are just really excited that she has a better place to be.”
Lester says the process was quicker than she thought, and now she’s in an apartment.
“It brought me joy, a lot of joy, and now that I have my own apartment, I can be independent, and I have my freedom back,” said Lester.
The tiny homes are funded through the City of Bend, grants and donations.
Right now, the villages have eight pallet homes and are in the process of building a dozen more, which they are hoping to have completed by the end of August.