As the region’s homeless population continues to grow – more than 60 organizations are providing support.
Central Oregon Daily News rode along with the Shepherd’s House Aid and Relief Effort van to Hunnell Road, one of the largest homeless encampments in Bend.
Four days a week, Shepherd’s House Ministries delivers food, clothes and a willingness to listen to homeless people around Bend.
Frequent stops include China Hat Road, Juniper Ridge and Hunnell Road where staff and volunteers try to connect with people who are unhoused.
“I get to be first point of contact out in the field,” said Evan Hendrix, Project SHARE Coordinator. “I help people become aware that there is a long-term overnight shelter available. That’s relatively new for Central Oregon and that’s been well-received. As people have begun to develop trust and expose themselves a little bit, that has allowed us to begin some movement.”
Hendrix has gotten know more than 300 homeless individuals since the Shepherd’s House Aid & Relief Effort van began rolling in January.
“This is a drop in the bucket for what’s needed right now. What we are learning through this work is that the primary needs aren’t physical. The primary needs are for mental health support and for recovery assistance,” he said.
“The need overall is growing,” said Wes Meyers, Shepherd’s House volunteer. “Yesterday’s paper front page about the removal of camps from the parkway. The need is growing. We need more volunteers. Shepherd’s House is doing an incredible job. I know there are others. I’m just new enough I don’t know them all.”
Shepherd’s Houses’ approach with the mobile relief effort is to let the houseless tell them what their needs are.
They do not judge and they try to meet people on their own terms.
“People really do respond to people seeing them and valuing them for who they are and not so much for their circumstances,” Hendrix said. “The fact we try to treat them as people and friends goes a long way.”