25 local organizations plus 80 individuals have signed an open letter encouraging Redmond City Councilors to allocate a portion of the city’s federal COVID-19 relief funding toward two shelter projects that would help alleviate rising unsheltered homelessness in the city.
Mosaic Medical, St. Charles Health System, the Homeless Leadership Coalition and the Central Oregon Health Council are among those who have signed on to an effort being led by members of the Stable Housing and Supports Workgroup, which operates under the Central Oregon Health Council to address community health goals outlined in the Regional Health Improvement Plan.
The collective letter came after a surprise vote by the city council at their Sept. 14 meeting to revert a prior decision made months ago to fund the Bethlehem Inn’s Project Turnkey expansion and the Oasis Village project.
“Access to safe and stable shelter is an essential determinant of health,” Brian Sullivan, MD and Mosaic Redmond Clinic Medical Director said. “Patients who are unhoused are more likely to suffer from nearly every type of chronic health issue, and many require consistent treatment that is difficult to get without stable, reliable shelter.
“If I could prescribe housing or safe shelter for every one of our patients, I would. We hope that the city council will take this into consideration when allocating relief funding towards programs that will help keep Redmond’s most vulnerable residents safe.”
The letter argues that the City of Redmond’s “investments to alleviate homelessness do address critical community health needs,” and that these two projects fill known gaps in Redmond’s homeless response system for families and individuals.
“Supporting the development of Oasis Village and the expansion of the Bethlehem Inn into Redmond will help alleviate the existing strain on healthcare providers, crisis services, and on the residents of Redmond who are currently sleeping outside,” the letter states.
The letter requests that the City Council “reconsiders the proposals to leverage federal relief funding to match our ongoing efforts and the other local investments that have been made into these two projects.”
Service providers and healthcare systems struggle to respond to increasing homelessness without adequate resources, and the experience of homelessness often creates new health problems and exacerbates existing ones.
Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Chang signed on to the letter as well.
“I believe the County should invest in these important projects which will help our homeless neighbors stabilize their lives and get back on track,” Chang said.
“I hope that the City of Redmond will partner with the County in these investments. It will take all of us working together to tackle homelessness and to put a dent in the rising number of people experiencing homelessness in Redmond.”
Central Oregon’s 2021 Point In Time count documented 1,099 people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January, a 13% increase over the prior year.
There were at least 184 unhoused individuals living in Redmond, according to the most recent official count, but shelter beds are nearly nonexistent.
“If someone is homeless tonight in Redmond, their options are to sleep on a park bench or in their vehicle if they have one,” said Bob Bohac, who is working in collaboration with Jericho Road to develop the Oasis Village. “Until the Bethlehem Inn or the winter shelter opens, there is no available shelter.”