The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office will open its Work Center in northeast Bend as an emergency homeless shelter this winter.
Central Oregon’s Homeless Leadership Coalition made the announcement Thursday, saying the Work Center, once used as a home to the Bethlehem Inn, will be made available to shelter up to 48 men and women.
“We are happy to step up and fill this critical void in our community,” Sheriff Shane Nelson said. “We understand the importance of having an emergency warming shelter and it worked out to be the right time where we could help.”
The HLC has been working with a regional network of emergency and permanent shelters, and service providers to find a location for a warming shelter in Bend this winter. A warming shelter is vital in order to keep individuals experiencing homelessness warm at night, and save lives.
“The Sheriff’s Office is simply making a portion of this building available to fill this urgent need,” said Sgt. William Bailey “If you look at the weather forecast, we are days away from temperatures being in the low teens at night and so this was an emergency need and the sheriff wanted to help.”
In late October, the HLC met with community partners and public officials to issue an emergency call for help in identifying a location for a warming shelter in Bend.
After attending the meeting, the Deschutes County commissioners reached out to Sheriff Nelson and asked if a portion of the DCSO Work Center, located on the Public Safety Campus, could be utilized for this emergency need. The Sheriff’s Office conducted a review of facility operations and, in partnership with the commissioners, has identified a section of the Work Center building that will meet this year’s needs for an emergency shelter location in Bend.
“Actually, one of the great things about this location is it is pretty much set up for us to come in and be able to set up a warming shelter,” said Colleen Thomas, co-chair of the HLC. “There are some renovations the sheriff’s office is making to the facility to make sure it is safe and secure for the shelter guests. But it’s minimal in regards to what other locations might have taken.”
The shelter will operate with support from the HLC, NeighborImpact and service providers.
The location will be solely run by a service provider identified by the HLC and in close coordination with the HLC shelter committee, and be completely separate from the DCSO in all its operations.
“With this facility we don’t have to work around schedules like we would, say, at a church when they have different programming going on,” Thomas said. “So this really allows us to open a shelter for every night and provide some continuity to our most vulnerable individuals in our community.”
With funding provided to Oregon Housing Community Services by the Oregon Legislature, the HLC is working with the Sheriff’s Office and Deschutes County to ensure the appropriate measures are being taken to provide safety and security for all shelter guests. HLC will be utilizing paid staff hired by NeighborImpact, and will soon have a call out for volunteers to help provide meals and serve as hosts for evening shifts. Efforts are underway to tentatively open the shelter by mid-December or as soon as possible before the cold of winter deepens.
All security locks and cameras on the shelter side of the building will be deactivated and turned over to the Homeless Leadership Coalition to manage. There will no be deputies on the shelter side of the building. Shelter managers will provide security.
HLC plans, at this point, to be open every night through mid-March. The HLC would like to thank the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office and Deschutes County commissioners for collaborating and making it possible to meet the need of sheltering our community’s most vulnerable this winter season.