BEND, OR -- Central Oregon’s largest homeless shelter will offer weekly trainings in August to bolster its volunteer numbers. Jordan Walker, with the Bethlehem Inn, says volunteer programs were decimated during the pandemic, and are now just 65% of what are needed at the Bend and Redmond shelters. Volunteers are needed for facilities work, like landscaping and building maintenance, in the kitchen, including cooking and serving meals, and at the front desk.
"There’s definitely a need to bring people in," he tells KBND News, "With that, though, also comes educational opportunities and just moments to foster understanding." Recent publicity over the clearing of local camps and other events involving the homeless, he believes, has led to a lack of empathy from the housed community. "This is an opportunity not only to gain insight into the problem, but also have an opportunity to be part of the solution. It’s really easy to get frustrated and complain. But that doesn’t really contribute to anything." He adds, "You get to take this idea of ‘the homeless,’ and break it down into ‘John’ and ‘Jill’ and whomever else, and their individual stories. It humanizes the problem."
Walker acknowledges Bethlehem Inn's clientele are often overlooked and invisible, "When I am driving down the road and there’s someone panhandling on the corner, I drive just far enough up so I don’t see them in my side window. And when there’s someone in a store that has been living outside and looks down on their luck - maybe they smell a little bit, they’re wearing old clothes that are dirty - I avert my gaze and go to the next aisle over. The problem is it’s not just me that’s doing that. It’s everyone."
He says, "By coming and participating in volunteering, serving a meal, helping out at the front desk, talking to people and using empathy, it shows this community of houseless individuals that there are community members that care."
Trainings are offered weekly in August: At the Bend shelter (3705 N. Hwy 97) every Thursday at noon and 5 p.m., plus Saturday, August 12 at noon. And at noon and 5 p.m. every Wednesday at the Redmond shelter (517 NW Birch Ave.). Walker hopes the variety of days and times removes barriers and makes volunteering accessible to everyone.
Pre-registration is required.