We understand if you have questions about homelessness. Here are a few answers.

  • What does being “homeless” mean in Central Oregon?
    • Homelessness is a situation in which anyone may find him- or herself. It does not define someone nor speak to who they are. Homelessness in Central Oregon is much the same as the rest of the nation except in that the urban/rural interface is much more accessible in this area. If forced to, an individual can successfully, though illegally, camp out during clement weather and still have access to the urban environment. It is important to remember that many of the homeless work very hard to make sure you have no clue they are without a fixed abode. The shabbily dressed man on the corner represents only a fraction of those who are homeless in our community.
  • Who are the homeless?
    • At a basic level a person experiencing homelessness is a mother, father, sister, brother, son daughter, uncle or aunt. There are as many ways to become homeless as there are people experiencing homelessness. The homeless include singles and families with children of all ages. Substance abuse, mental health issues and physical disabilities may be contributors but an economic system that encourages a boom and a bust cycle plays a role as well. There is also a great need to increase the affordable housing stock in all the communities of Central Oregon.
  • If someone is being helped by the Bethlehem Inn, shouldn’t I be helping the person on the street corner?
    • Part of truly helping is being part of a sustainable solution. Standing on a corner panhandling for the whole day may put some money in the pocket but it does not address the need to move forward. Not to put too fine a point on it, you just can’t know what kinds of resources a person panhandling has access to. In either case it is best not to give money. If you feel the need to help carry fast food gift cards in your car.
  • Are the people standing on the street corner residents of the Inn?
    • Hopefully not. While we cannot prevent someone from exercising their rights, they are expected to be using this opportunity to work on their plan towards self-sufficiency.
  • Why stand on the street if the Bethlehem Inn is available?
    • The Bethlehem Inn has strict requirements such as a curfew and drug and alcohol testing. There are many who are not yet ready to accept our kind of assistance. Some don’t know about the services or have deep misconceptions about us and just follow the lead of others. And there are, of course, those who choose homelessness as way of life.
  • Why do some homeless have dogs when they can barely take care of themselves?
    • To many, these are the only friends or family that they have left. Dogs never judge. Dogs are loyal and represent unconditional love. Those who camp rely on them for protection, warning and in cold weather an important source of warmth. Unfortunately, since most homeless shelters cannot offer shelter to pets for liability and health reasons, they choose to stay with their pets rather than abandon them. If someone seeking shelter has a service animal, they must fill out a reasonable accommodation request PRIOR to coming to us for services. If you want to help people on the street with pets, food and water would be greatly appreciated.
  • Aren’t places like the Bethlehem Inn just a free ride for lazy people?
    • No. The Bethlehem Inn is emergency shelter and residents are expected to work towards a way out of homelessness. The initial review period is 7 days with an application for a full 30-day stay.Progress is reviewed in 30-day increments. Failure to make progress will result in being asked to leave. Also, residents are subject to strict curfews, drug and alcohol testing and must participate in regular chores. It is possible to ride the system for a time but relatively quickly the Inn’s staff is able to measure an individual’s willingness to move forward.
  • How can I help when I just don’t have time to volunteer?
    • Many of our volunteers have full-time jobs. You don’t need to spend much time to have an impact. An hour here, meal there and of course financial donations are all appreciated. A really big help is to bring us your redeemable bottles and cans.
  • What exactly is included in your operating costs?
    • Think of running your home or business: utilities, lease payments, insurance and payroll (for our small but dedicated staff). It is important to understand that having a paid, trained and dedicated staff is the only way a 24/7 organization like the Bethlehem Inn can operate.
  • What do residents do all day?
    • Residents are required to be off-site Monday-Friday 8:30-4:00. During that time they are to be working on the plan outlined for them to help them in becoming self-sufficient. On the weekend they have chores to do around the Inn such as cleaning the facilities, doing laundry, etc.
  • What if I give a homeless person a gift card from Safeway?
    • Be aware that those experiencing homelessness are eligible for food stamps, which can only be used to buy food. A Safeway, or any other type of gift card, does not come with restrictions—meaning your well-intentioned gift may be used to buy non-essentials like alcohol.
  • What are the Bethlehem Inn’s accommodations like?
    • The Inn is a converted motel with separate areas for men, women and families. Single men and single women are housed 6 to a room. Each room has its own bathroom. Family units have multiple beds and more conveniences such as tables and private bathrooms. Meals, which are often prepared off-site and brought in by volunteers, are served in the common kitchen/dining area.
  • Is the Bethlehem Inn a faith based organization?
    • No. The Inn started in the various churches in Bend but has since become an independent operation without an explicit religious mission. In this way we are different from the vast number of homeless shelters in this country. Many of our volunteers and donations come from a wide range of faith-based sources but the staff is required not to proselytize to residents. We do allow representatives of any faith to make a presentation to residents but we cannot require they participate.
  • Is the Bethlehem Inn free?
    • There is no fee to stay at the Inn. However, many of our residents participate in our on-site Work Experience program not only to gain job experience but to show their appreciation for the services they receive at the Inn.
  • Where do your meals come from?
    • Because we do not have a commercial kitchen, which would allow us to cook large volumes of food, nearly half of our evening meals are prepared off-site by volunteers and brought in to be served. Many of these generous individuals and groups supply all of the elements of the meal but for those who cannot provide the food but want to cook, they may come and shop in our pantry. Some of our meal providers choose a fixed day each month while others participate in “Adopt-a-Week,” providing dinner for 7 nights in a row.
  • Do you ever turn anyone away?
    • To become a resident at the Inn, you must be able to pass an alcohol and drug test. There are other restrictions enforced because of the presence of children on the premises such as sex offender status. Our goal is to create a safe and secure environment for both residents and staff.
  • Can I come to the Inn and choose to help someone specifically?
    • We respect the privacy of our residents and therefore limit the interaction between them and non- residents. If you have a specific way you would like to help, please contact the staff and they will help you determine the best thing to do. One excellent option is to contribute to the Resident Assistance Fund, described below.
  • What are the behind-the-scenes needs of the homeless?
    • This is a real problem that is generally overlooked. For example, someone needing prescription medicines usually doesn’t have the funds to pay for them. Same with those who need to have documentation such as birth certificates replaced. Sometimes the only thing standing between a resident moving out and getting their own place might be a deposit or fee of some sort. Up until recently, the Inn’s staff was digging into their own pockets to help meet these needs. However, there is now a fund that was started by a volunteer to provide assistance as it is needed.
  • Where do the homeless figures for Central Oregon come from?
    • At the end of every January, the Homeless Leadership Coalition conducts a 24-hour One Night Shelter Count in Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook counties. A large number of volunteers and agencies interview all of the homeless they can find in a 24-hour period. It is during this process that the demographics are compiled. This information is published a few weeks later in the newspaper.
  • Does the Bethlehem Inn accept single youth and if not, why?
    • The minimum age to stay on your own at the Inn is 18 years. Under that age, a minor must be part of our Family First program.
  • What other services are available to residents?
    • Thanks to some great volunteers and agencies, our residents have access to monthly legal aid, haircuts as well as medical and dental care. We also offer a part-time mental health worker on site.
  • What does it take to get accepted at the Inn?
    • Upon arrival, the individual or family must meet with a case manager who will take down vital information and take a photo during what is called “intake”. Prospective residents must pass drug and alcohol testing. Rules and regulations of the Inn are reviewed. Soon after intake, the resident goes through assessment, which results in developing a specific plan to help the person get back on track toward self-sufficiency.
  • What volunteer opportunities exist for kids?
    • Volunteering comes in many forms, many of which are great for families and friends to do together. You can prepare a meal and bring it in to serve, have a neighborhood garage sale, or collect redeemable cans and bottles. Instead of spending a lot of money at Christmas for gifts, it might be better to help those experiencing homelessness get back on their feet and resume a normal, productive life.

We appreciate your interest in the issue of homelessness. For more information, please call us at (541) 322-8768. We’d love to talk with you more and are happy to provide tours of the Inn as well.

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