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.”
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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.”
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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.