Deschutes County is moving forward with a proposal for a new shelter aimed at housing male convicts and sex offenders. The project, which has been awarded over $1 million for its implementation, would provide the population with short-term and long-term housing opportunities, making the process of supervision and support easier for adult parole and probation officers.
The Deschutes County Community Justice Department brought the request for proposals to the Board of County Commissioners meeting on Aug. 23, attempting to secure a community provider to take on the project. The RFP details its primary goal in establishing this type of shelter, housing individuals with "conditions that restrict their proximity to minors or who have to register as a sex offender."
The RFP estimates that the shelter would annually provide 15-25 shelter beds and two to four longer-term housing units. Housing this population, according to Deevy Holcomb, the director for Deschutes County Community Justice, would enhance public safety by helping stabilize individuals getting out of prison or probation.
"It seemed like a good blend of our public safety interests and the governor's interests in decreasing homelessness," said Holcomb. "They don't have a stable foundation to start or build behavior change because they are always wondering where they are going to lay their head that night."
According to the RFP, these men experience chronic and acute homelessness. "We consistently supervise 25-30 men who don't qualify for housing resources," said Trevor Stevens, the Community Justice Department's business manager, at Wednesday's meeting.
"It's difficult for them to stay in a particular location because neighbors and so on don't want them there," said Holcomb. This can make it difficult for these individuals to be tracked down, creating an inability for some to abide by their terms of release or supervision conditions. "It's a cascading effect; it's really hard to get stabilized after getting out of prison or probation," Holcomb said.
"These individuals are our neighbors and our community members and they're here," said Holcomb. "This kind of a project is a way to make sure that we increase public safety by knowing where people are and providing the stability that is necessary for them to make the right choices and make better choices in the future."
Providers interested in taking on this project are asked to submit proposals, answering a series of questions, prior to Sept. 27. The housing facility must abide by low-barrier principles, not prohibiting or restricting individuals with sex-related offenses. "Those are the individuals that we have the most trouble housing," Stevens said in the meeting.
The selected provider can create, monitor and enforce house rules, such as banning the usage of drugs and alcohol on the property or prohibiting violent behaviors. According to Holcomb, the shelter can be built or purchased anywhere in Central Oregon, including a neighborhood, as long as it's not near a school or a park.
Holcomb hopes the community can be open to finding a solution for this population. "I would invite people to think through the public safety aspect as well as the humanity aspect of increasing housing."