BEND, OR -- Central Oregon’s largest homeless shelter will break ground this week on an expanded facility in Bend. Bethlehem Inn Executive Director Gwenn Wysling says they’ve raised over $5 million, which is enough to get started on Phase One. "The construction process began in June when we demolished our old lobby area and the 1960s administrative offices that we’ve been working out of for the last 10 years."
Wysling says services won't be interrupted during construction. "We installed some temporary trailers that we’re working out of now. They have been an amazing upgrade from what we were working out of before." She tells KBND News, "As our volunteers come in and experience the new dining facilities and kitchen prep area, they’re blown away. And so, this is just one step towards what we’re working towards in our new facility. Our residents are so much appreciative and grateful for this improvement."
She says the current facility in an old motor inn on North Highway 97 in Bend has long needed to be replaced. This first phase of development is expected to take about a year to build the 18,000 square foot service hub with room for 10 families. Currently, the shelter has five family units. And, a new commercial kitchen will allow volunteers to prepare hot meals on-site, something they’ve never been able to do. "The new facility is going to have a commercial kitchen in the middle, with family dining on one side and singles dining on the other, so it allows us to actually serve the full capacity. We only have the capacity to seat about 40 people right now, and the families dine in their own little dining room – a hotel room. That is going to expand and give us the full capacity to serve the 90-100 people we’re serving a night."
Phase two is still in the design and fundraising stage. It will eventually increase the number of housing units for single men and women.