BEND, OR -- Central Oregon’s largest homeless shelter is getting bigger. Construction of the Bethlehem Inn’s new family building is nearly complete on North Highway 97 in Bend.
Gwenn Wysling, the shelter’s Executive Director, says the new facility includes office space and meeting rooms, it doubles the number of families they can serve, and allows food to be prepared on-site, "It's going to house 10 families, we’ll have a commercial kitchen, we’ll actually have dining spaces right at the kitchen – a shared kitchen that serves both the families and the singles program." Those dining rooms are separated by the kitchen, so the single residents don’t mingle with families with children. "We’ve designed this facility, with the help of some of our families and some of our stake-holders, in such a way that it really keeps people safe and accountable and secure," Wysling tells KBND News.
Families will also enter the housing unit through a secured door, and an outdoor kids’ play area is protected by a fence, "Each family has their own room; but it’s a small, very utilitarian room, with a couple of beds and a desk for the kids to study at, and their own private bathroom. There’s unfortunately no couches or chairs – this is temporary. When families enter in, it’s either an automatic seven-day emergency stay or they enter into a five-week case management program, taking steps to make sure that they’re moving forward."
Construction on the family building is expected to wrap up this month, and then work will begin on new singles' housing. It all comes as the Bend shelter nears the end of a major fundraising effort, "The community has been so supportive of this $9 million capital campaign. We have raised $7.5 million and our hope is that we can reach the $8 million mark by the time we move into this."
Click HERE to listen to our full conversation with Gwenn Wysling, or visit our Podcast Page.