C. Oregon homeless brave elements outdoors

COVO staff, volunteers make rounds to drop off water, supplies

COVO takes supplies to homeless camps

BEND, Ore. - Lynn points out her boots and her warm winter coat, saying she got them from COVO and they've kept her warm all winter long.

A winter she's spent almost entirely outside.

Central Oregon Veterans Outreach (COVO) makes weekly rounds throughout Central Oregon -- they drop off supplies to homeless camps in Bend on Tuesdays and head out to camps in Redmond on Thursdays.

Lynn currently lives in one of Bend's larger homeless camps, near Highway 97 on Bend's north side.

She said she's been living in and out of homeless camps for 12 years, and she hasn't worked since 2004.

While she wants to get a new job, she told NewsChannel 21 that the fast-food restaurant jobs she used to work are tougher to come by.

"They don't like hiring people who've been out of the job field for quite awhile," she said.

She said it can get rough, living outdoors all the time.

"It would be nice to having running water so you can wash your dishes properly, instead of trying to scrape and trying to make sure you have at least a clean pan or plate or something to eat off of," she said.

But still, she doesn't like to complain.

"I've got a little bit of Indian in my soul, and you know, you just tough it out."

And toughing it out is a lot more bearable with some help.

COVO Homeless Outreach Coordinator Jessie Higgins said it's crucial to not only bring supplies to the homeless,  but to earn their trust so the organization can continue to help them.

"The basic survival supplies and whatnot, that's how that relationship is built, because trust is a huge thing," Higgins said. "These are people that have lost a lot of trust in the system."

Lynn and other homeless depend on supplies like water, food and propane that  COVO brings them once a week -- something that's been a struggle lately.

"Our COVO vehicle is broke which makes it really tough," Higgins said.

Now they depend on their volunteers, like Len DeGroot, more than ever.

DeGroot drives his own truck around to camps in Bend.

He's a veteran helping other veterans.

"These people are people like all of us, a lot of them want some help someplace," DeGroot said.

Higgins said COVO is currently serving about 30 veterans and other homeless living in the camps.

While some live in tents like Lynn, others have it a little better and stay in temporary trailers, until they can get more permanent housing.

Getting veterans and other homeless into a home is why DeGroot volunteers.

"There's been a couple of people who have gone back to some of their other ways, but there's been a good number of successes," DeGroot said.

Lynn hopes to someday be one of those stories, and said it's hard sometimes to go out and beg for money.

"I wish everybody would look at us a little bit different, because we are not all bad," she said.

Lynn said she has good friends in her camp, and because of COVO, some dignity.

COVO told NewsChannel 21 they are starting a new program to let people sponsor a veteran. Higgins said it will allow the organization to get very specific needs met, like getting veterans a phone or prescription medication.

If you would like to help them, you can call them at 541-383-2793.

COVO is also looking for a four-wheel drive truck to use for taking supplies out to homeless camps, or cash donations to help buy one.

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