((L-R) Bend Heroes president and Veterans Village founder Erik Tobiason, J Bar J CEO Stephanie Alvstad, State Representative Jack Zika and Greater Bend Rotary’s Bruce Abernethy at the construction site in September | Photo Courtesy of J Bar J Youth Services)
First Five Residents Scheduled to Move in on Veterans Day
Central Oregon Veterans Village, a community of transitional shelters for homeless veterans, is turning the corner toward completion, with the first five residents scheduled to move in this coming Veterans Day, Thursday, November 11.
“We are shooting for a go-live date on Veterans Day. We still have some final grading, paving and landscaping to do, but we have five cabins signed off by the city so far. They will definitely be ready to live in by then,” says Erik Tobiason, president of Bend Heroes Foundation, which has overseen the construction phase of the project. “We are modeling this after the successful Clackamas Veterans Village, which started with 15 units just like we have. It initially launched with five residents, then slowly added the rest. We are starting with five on Veterans Day and will progress from there.” He says utilities are getting hooked up, and remaining work to be done in the Village is minor. “We might end up with a gravel path initially, but I think the paving should be fine. Every day is a sprint now, but we can see the finish line, and I feel good about it.”
The project is a joint venture between the Bend Heroes Foundation and Central Oregon Veterans Outreach (COVO) and has involved a plethora of organizations and individuals. It is being managed as a public-private partnership with the City of Bend, Deschutes County and the State of Oregon. The Village comprises the 15 shelters, and offers behavioral and physical health services, social-service programs geared toward self-sufficiency, employment training and skill-building and housing placement. A central community building will have offices with case managers on site full time, a kitchen where meals will be served, a dining area, laundry, restrooms and showers. “All buildings are on site now,” says Tobiason. “The community building is a triple-wide manufactured unit that came over the hill from Albany. It arrived after a six-month delay due to COVID.”
The Central Oregon Veterans Village program started when Bend Heroes Foundation — an organization that honors Central Oregon veterans and other heroes in a variety of ways — had completed its Honor Flights program. “We had a big project taking WWII vets to Washington, D.C., and we finished that and needed something else to do,” explains Tobiason. “We heard about the Clackamas village, went there and met with them, decided it was a great idea and got rolling on it.”
As construction on the Village nears completion, Tobiason says COVO will take over operations. “COVO selected the residents who will move in. Bend Heroes did all the politicking and documentation to build the village, but COVO will operate it for the next decade. We are building it and handing it over to them. They deal with homeless vets every day.” He adds, “They have selection criteria, and they know who needs to come first, and what kind of criteria will allow success and what to avoid. COVO has always been a good partner.”
As with many nonprofit projects in Central Oregon, Veterans Village was a beautiful collaboration between many organizations and individuals. Stephanie Alvstad, CEO and president of J Bar J Youth Services and Peggy Carey, director of Strategic Initiatives for J Bar J, are members of the Greater Bend Rotary along with Tobiason. Through that connection, youth living at J Bar J’s Boys Ranch have helped with construction at the Village as part of J Bar J’s vocational program. “Erik asked me to help with grants. It was a natural fit for the boys to be there,” says Carey. “Erik is a super networker.”
Through this partnership, Boys Ranch youth have received practical experience in trade work. “Our intent is to provide these boys, before they leave, with exposure to the trades as we develop the program,” says Carey. “Working with Veterans Village was a perfect opportunity to give them hands-on training in trades, such as framing, putting walls up and putting up Tyvek, and to observe and help where they can. Not only have they had wonderful hands-on experience, but they have also had the chance to work alongside Hayden Homes, Midstate Construction, Greater Bend Rotary, Heart of Oregon, former Representative Cheri Helt and Representative Jack Zika.” She adds, “Good people are working hard to make this happen. The boys have been able to both learn the trades and do some good things for the community.”
Carey says that as a result of the collaboration with Veterans Village, one of the boys has been offered an internship with Hayden Homes. “This was just a great opportunity for them. Everyone, especially City Council, has been super supportive. There are lots of donors.” She Continues, “There have been so many people who have been instrumental: the City of Bend, Deschutes County, Bruce Abernethy (formerly on City Council), City staff members who have directed us and coached us on how to apply for funding… everybody has been awesome.” Greater Bend Rotary was the biggest donor to the vocational program at $75,000, Carey says, and members have been working diligently on Veterans Village, working alongside and teaching the boys onsite. “The Rotary Club nominated Erik for an award for Veterans Village, which was presented on 9/11. Brooks Foundation was also a big donor at $50k. And Furnish Hope is supplying all the furnishings, for this and our other programs too.”
“For me, I really like working at the Village,” says one of the youths who is helping with the construction. “It is a good experience for me, and I get to help make houses for the veterans. I’m excited to add this experience to my resume. I really enjoy working with everyone, and the teamwork that we have here.” He adds, “The communication in our team is really awesome and supportive. Everyone here knows that they are working on a project that is bigger than them.”
Those wishing to donate or otherwise help with Central Oregon Veterans Village can contact Central Oregon Veterans Outreach at 541-383-2793 or email to email@example.com, or can donate online at centraloregonveteransvillage.org.