REDMOND, OR -- Governor Tina Kotek continued her multi-day trip to Central Oregon Thursday, meeting with Redmond’s Mayor, Bend's Mayor Pro Tem and other local leaders. "We’re spending a lot of time in Redmond on this trip because we want to make sure - you know, Deschutes County is not just Bend, it’s Redmond and other places. So, we started off here, coming to Redmond, we had a meeting with some culturally specific organizations that work with the LatinX, latino population here in Central Oregon, we met at City Hall - by the way, beautiful city hall - and had a conversation on a variety of things: education and housing and services." She then toured the new Shepherd's House Redmond shelter, "It’s a fantastic site; I’m very excited about it for the community. And we had a large roundtable talking about housing, homelessness services, where the community is, where they want to go. Super impressed with the partnerships here, the collaboration."
Like Wednesday's visit to Crook and Jefferson counties, Thursday's meetings in Deschutes County were not open to the public or press. Kotek met with local media at the Redmond shelter after the roundtable. She again addressed the idea of siting a managed camp outside the UGB. "I’m not supportive of going outside the Urban Growth Boundary because I think that sets a bad precedent for the entire state," Kotek told reporters, "I want to exhaust every option within the Urban Growth Boundary to find those locations." The state could help provide the land, says Kotek; ODOT properties and other state-owned parcels could be considered as options. But, she says a managed camp must be close to critical services, "Do you have electrical? Do you have plumbing? Being inside the Urban Growth Boundary, you’re more likely to be closer to where you can get those really core utilities and things that you need. It’s really a functional challenge. The further people are out, the less they’re going to get connected to services." And, she says, if they don’t connect with services, they’re less likely to escape homelessness.
She says Deschutes County is doing a lot of things right in addressing critical needs, including making county land available for housing projects, "When you have public land and you have a crisis in housing, that is a good role for the county." But, she says, there is more to do, "I think what we have to see from all our county leaders around the state is being willing to take risks, being willing to take risks, in terms of putting resources into housing and homelessness, because the size of the crisis is so large, that we have to continue to do things differently." Kotek also praised the cities of Bend and Redmond for helping spur housing development and create more affordable options.
Kotek also addressed reports of a new homeless count conducted by an outside independent contractor hired by the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. KBND News asked whether the difference in statistics would jeopardize state funding. Kotek says the official data comes from the Homeless Leadership Coalition during the one-day Point in Time (PIT) count. "We will be looking at those [PIT Count] numbers - which are much higher than the study commissioned by the Sheriff’s Office are showing. And I’ve got to tell you, I think we need to have transparency and accountability whenever we’re doing that kind of research. I’m going to depend on the tried and true methods that we’ve been using. Look, we also know those are also undercounts. They are a starting point, and the PIT count is what we’re using across the state, so that is what we’ll be using for the services we’re trying to fund."
Listen to Governor Tina Kotek's full press conference in Redmond, as she took questions from KBND News, The Redmonds Spokesman, Central Oregon Daily News and KTVZ: