Bend family out of homelessness; how to help others

Need grows -- but places to stay don't, many turned away

POSTED: 7:18 PM PST November 27, 2013    UPDATED: 8:03 PM PST November 28, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

A growing number of people are finding they have no place to call home. But the High Desert's homeless population might not be what you think, and isn't always what you see on the streets, Many are families with children.

Vince, a single dad, found a temporary home at the Bethlehem Inn shelter in Bend.

After losing his job he lost his home. Vince says he's been struggling pretty hard.

He stayed with family and friends, and at one point was living in a trailer on a friend's property. That was only a temporary solution, and as the temperatures got colder, he knew he had to do better.

Vince is a dad with three boys: Hayden 15, Maverick 11 and Blake,  just 5 years old. Like other kids, they take the bus to school, they play games and they study. But they also call the shelter home.

Hayden and Maverick pass the time with Dad playing the hand they've been dealt.

"It's fun to be here with the family, because we get all the time to be together," says Hayden.

Blake spends much of his time with Thomas the Train, seemingly barely fazed by his environment, but he's only 5.

Liz Clemens, case worker at the Bethlehem Inn, says she tries to make this as normal as possible for kids.

Vince and his boys also line up to get their food, and they eat with other families staying at the shelter.

For their safety, they stay on the family side of a dotted green line. It's the only thing that separates the kids from the rest of the homeless population at the shelter.

While there are rules to keep families as safe as possible, the shelter does not perform background checks, and is open to anyone that needs a place to stay.

Vince's family, however, is one of the lucky ones. The shelter only has room for five families at a time.

Clemens says she turns away people every day. There is only one emergency intake shelter in Central Oregon.

Clemens says "I get a lot of phone calls from people in need and there just isn't enough family units."

Nancy's Place is another shelter in Bend that takes in homeless families. There is an application process, and sometimes a long wait.

Mary Marson of Nancy's House says it is not meeting the need. A lot of people remain in unsafe situations because there is no place for them to go.

Families here are in transition and still face an uphill climb.

Clemens says from the moment they come through the door, they are totally in survival mode. She says all they are thinking about is how to survive, because it's a crisis situation -- nobody comes in that isn't in crisis.

Families at the Bethlehem Inn stay an average of 30 days, 90 days at Nancy's House. Finding families stable housing is the goal.

For those families that get continued help, many are successful.

Vince and his boys are one of the success stories. He's found work, and with the help of partner agencies, he has found stable housing.

Vince and his boys were able to move out and into their own place the very next day.

Officials tell us the need is so great and that the community has been helpful, but what they really need tonight is money.

You can donate to the Bethlehem Inn by visiting their website at www.bethleheminn.org

You can also donate to Nancy's House at www.neighborimpact.org