JBend City Council approved the purchase of the Rainbow Motel at its regular meeting on Jan. 19, saying the property has potential as a temporary shelter for homeless people as well as for longer-term purposes. It’s the second motel the city is converting to a shelter after receiving $2.97 million in state grants to convert the Bend Value Inn in July.
The city council aims to add 500 new shelter beds by 2023 to increase the 280 beds currently available year-round. General funds paid for the Rainbow Motel so that it could eventually be used as something other than transitional housing.
“The purchase of the motel is an opportunistic public investment that can meet a variety of short- and long-term community needs, including, but not limited to, an immediate need for transitional shelter, as well as a possible future site for City Hall, affordable housing, civic plaza or other public uses,” Councilwoman Megan Perkins said in a housing strategies update.
The motel will be operated as a low-barrier shelter by a competitively selected non-profit organization. The motel is expected to open in late spring or early summer, will have 40 to 60 shelter beds and will be used for two to three years before moving to another use.
The motel cost $4.55 million and sits on just over an acre of land in the Central Bend District on Franklin Avenue. It’s a few blocks from the Second Street emergency shelter run by Shepherd’s House—Bend’s low-barrier overnight shelter with 90 beds, and near a growing encampment on Second Street.
The Rainbow Motel will likely open earlier than the Bend Value Inn on Division Street. The city purchased the Bend Value Inn with Project Turnkey Funding, a state grant to renovate motels into temporary shelters.
“It will be a low-barrier shelter with a capacity of 28 rooms. A contract with NeighborImpact is being drawn up to exploit it. The first possible use of this facility would be this winter, with renovations in the summer of 2022,” Councilor Perkins said. from the Bend Value Inn area.
The city had scheduled an open house for Jan. 25 to share renovation plans and a timeline for completing the improvements. Converting motels is only part of the Council’s goal of increasing shelter capacity. At his regular meeting on January 19, he reported that they had met or were on track to meet 86% of the targets. An online dashboard that tracks each goal’s progress shows that one goal is complete, three need attention, 11 haven’t been started, and 68 are on target.
Bend’s head of recovery strategy and impact, Carolyn Eagan, said the city has doubled the number of shelter beds available in the city in the past 18 months. The annual tally for 2021 estimated that there were around 1,100 homeless people in Bend, a number that has steadily increased by 10-12% each year for the past few years.