Gwenn serves as the Executive Director of Bethlehem Inn since 2010. Before joining the nonprofit world, she served as a member of the Inn’s board of directors for a year and a half. The organization currently has two facilities (one in Bend and one in Redmond) that offer emergency shelter and supportive services for men, women and families. It has as its mission to transform lives together through shelter, help and hope. You can learn more at bethleheminn.org.
Gwenn’s career spans more than 20 years in the hospitality industry working as a Human Resources professional, as well as an Operations Manager. She earned her BA in Business Administration from Washington State University.
She is a native of the Pacific Northwest and moved to Central Oregon in 2007. Since arriving in Bend, she has been active in service and volunteering on various boards and committees for local organizations such as Homeless Leadership Coalition (HLC), Redmond Service Providers, City Club, Rotary, Volunteers in Medicine (VIM), and Start Making a Reader Today (SMART). In 2016 she was recognized by the Bend Chamber as Citizen of the year.
She enjoys living in Central Oregon for the natural beauty and peaceful mountains and rivers it offers. Her passion is inspiring people to do better and help her fellow humans. Tune in and learn about the impact Bethlehem Inn has in our region.
I think we all have something that we can offer and and giving of ourselves that that that servant heart is something that comes back to you and provide such wonderful rewards. You know, we are we are a an amazing community that comes together when there's crisis. And this is a crisis situation. So it is something that we look to our community leaders to help provide some leadership. But it really is the the grassroot level community that gets to jump in and help help bring this this problem to a workable solution that it provides opportunities for people in the world that otherwise they might not find.Narrator:
Welcome to cascade views a discussion with Central Oregon leaders. Your host is Michael SIPE, local business and community leader Best Selling Author of the Avada principle and candidate for Oregon State Representative for House District 53, which encompasses southern Redmon, sisters tombolo, and Northern bend. The purpose of these discussions is to share the views and insights of local leaders from a variety of community sectors on a range of timely and important regional and state issues. With that now, here's your host, Michael SIPE.Michael Sipe:
Thanks for joining us on Caskey views. My name is Michael SIPE, and I'm here today with Quinn wisely, when serves as the executive director of Bethlehem in and she's been there since 2010. Before joining the nonprofit world, she served as a member of the Board of Directors for a year and a half. The organization currently has two facilities, one in Bend, and one in Redmond, that offer emergency shelter and supportive services for men, women and families. It has as its mission to transform lives together through shelter, help, and hope. You can learn more at Bethlehem in not org. Wins career spans more than 20 years in the hospitality industry working as a human resources professional, as well as an operations manager. She earned her BA in Business Administration from Washington State University. She is a native of the Pacific Northwest and moved to central Oregon in 2007. Since arriving in Bend, she has been active in service and volunteering on various boards and committees for local organizations, such as homeless Leadership Coalition, Redmond service providers, City Club rotary volunteers in medicine and start making a reader today or smart as we know it. In 2016, she was recognized by the bend chamber as Citizen of the Year, she enjoys living in Central Oregon for the natural beauty and peaceful mountains. And the rivers that it offers her passion is inspiring people to do better, and help her fellow humans when Welcome to the show.Unknown:
Thank you, Mike, I'm looking forward to our conversation surrounding an issue that has become a growing and concerning problem that there are solutions forMichael Sipe:
Well, I'm looking forward to hearing your input. It's a great pleasure to have you on the show. When I look at your background. I think here's a woman that has the credentials and the skill do about anything she wants. So my first question is what drew you to Bethlehem in and what has kept you so passionate about it? I've known you at least a dozen years and you've been consistently passionate. How? How's that work?Unknown:
Well, having a background in hospitality has been you know, really, I think I've been gifted with a servant heart, I really, you know, enjoy that. You know, that connection with people. And for those that are looking for help, really offering what help is available. The mission is very near and dear to my heart, transforming lives. And you know how we do that here at Bethlehem and is is through our services and connection to to resources and people. It is a an ever evolving kind of area. And the I think what what really makes a place like Bethlehem in so special is the community collaboration. We don't do this work alone. We never have it started really with the community, a forming this organization back in 1999. Through the churches, working together through that real collective impact model where we're all working on the same end result of what opportunities and solutions are there for people who are who are looking for the help.Michael Sipe:
So fill us in a bit then on some of the services of Bethlehem and maybe who your clients are and how the different programs work.Unknown:
Well, we as mentioned in the introduction, we offer shelter to those men, women family, that want to come and are willing to abide by some, some real basic rules. Bethlehem man is a clean and sober environment. So we do test for drugs and alcohol, that is to help provide a safe and secure place. And often that is something that people are lacking in their lives. And when they come to Bethlehem, and they're, they're looking for a place where they can succeed. And eliminating some of those temptations is what is, we have found to be very helpful. Families here at Bethlehem and not only have their own private room, their bathroom and family space, there's a place for study and, and the play, and to just be a family. There's separate dining rooms for our adults, and then for our family space. And they, the families also have their own place to store food and snacks and goodies so that the kids when they come home from school have a little snack in between their three meals a day. As as the program has evolved and grown, we've we've developed a way to really measure what the impact of our mission is. And the way that is done is through an evaluation of when someone arrives. And when they leave. And it's a what we call a matrix. And there are a number of different areas that we feel in a short term transitional stay that we can most impact. And that includes shelter and housing, employment, income, health coverage, safety, and overall well being. And we're able to put together some reports that show when somebody scores, either on a one or a five, one meeting, they're in crisis. So they're on the lower end, or five, they're really thriving, you know, they have all the insurance, they have open insurance, they just haven't been to the doctor. So this help on the variety of social determinants of health, that really impact somebody's ability to be more self sufficient out there in the world. And those, we see that people are making an increase on average one or two points from when they get here. And when they leave on an average, oh, you know, two to three months stay.Michael Sipe:
So regardless of how they show up on the matrix, how do they show up? How does an individual or a family find Bethlehem in? How do they get accepted and fit into the program?Unknown:
We work with a number of partner agencies 70 plus. So there's a lot of organizations that are referring people to us, you should go to Bethlehem in many people know about Bethlehem and they can go to our website, they can get a list of the rules, or they can just call and and get themselves on our inquiry list. So we contact them when a space is available.Michael Sipe:
So you're growing, your Redmond facility is just getting launched. Tell us the story of that center. Do you see anything different in the Redmond community then in bend or anything that's going to be different. That's required for the Redmond center to operate?Unknown:
Well, pre pandemic, our board of directors kind of surveyed our stakeholders to determine our possible expansion. And that's really what led us to going to Redmond there's no shelter beds right now year round in Redmond. And we looked to the different neighbors and our community partners. And when the original idea of project turnkey was introduced by the Oregon legislature, we jumped on that opportunity knowing we needed to expand to Redmond. And that grant got submitted in 2020 at the end in December, and we purchased the motel just a little more than a year ago in mid 2021. And we've really been blessed with the support from our community. We have, I think a strong enough reputation that we were able to talk to our neighbors and let them know what it is that we we are wanting to do and to be that very strong community partner. We have the story of of how that all comes together is, you know, the funding from Oregon Community Foundation's project turnkey grant, Oregon Housing and Community Services, the ARPA funds that Deschutes County provided us some of the city of Redmond grants and other grants that, you know, help us take a 1960s Motel and bring that up to code. So there's a lot of work. And we open phase one of four in December and began providing services to residents. Phase two was opened in in January, and that was our dining room. And we're getting ready to open phase three this month, which will increase the number of rooms that we have available. And the fourth and final phase really, commercial kitchen. And as you might remember, Rotary was big on helping us get in a commercial kitchen built here in Bend, because we operated for 10 years without one. And we were that this necessary resource was in place as soon as possible. It has been like building the airplane as we're flying it, you know, making all the necessary decisions and planning. But I think we've made the adaptations that's going to make this a resource that is going to serve the community for many years to come. You know, regarding Redmond, we recognize it has its own culture, his own challenges, and we're working to make that connection with our neighbors, our partners, and continue that philosophy of working together. That together is an important word in our mission statement. As as we open up, and hopefully we'll be fully operational, we are limited in our storage. So we're not quite yet figuring out how to do our donation system in Redmond. So you know we we rely on our community when we need toilet paper and sheets and towels and you know, the kinds of things the everyday things that our residents need clothing and hygiene items. It's going to take us a little time to establish that but we were already getting calls and and people looking for for opportunities. And we will post those on our website. And we have some great signage and red thing by we're on birch, right between Fifth and Sixth. So you can see what's what is needed.Michael Sipe:
It's a great location up there. Yeah, I remember very well. Cme early plans for the bend facility and then walking through that when it was just studs with you. And, and then the and then I remember the we had a rotary meeting there and were served out of the kitchen. And it was just a tremendous project, a tremendous fundraising project and tremendous to watch it go and, and this one in Redmond is really going fast. So congratulations on that rapid pace. Let me change gears just a minute. I I am excited to hear a couple of success stories. So you can do that anonymously, if you don't mind. But could you just give us a couple of wins that you enjoy telling about?Unknown:
Well imagine if you can, you know you're you're residing on Tunnel Road, you know, in a trailer or in a car or something, but that you also have small children. Yeah, erielle. And I'll use that name for this story. And her two small school kids were fleeing from domestic violence and they landed there. You know, due to the lack of housing, they have exhausted all of their resources, and that was just going from hotel to motel. And with no other options. She and her family ended up camping there for a couple of months on Hanul road. And unfortunately, some old patterns kind of came back into their lives and she had relapsed. And yet still she reached out and we all know how helped she reached out to Bethlehem in to see if she could could come to the shelter and program. Both boys got quickly enrolled into school. She gained employment and began saving once against those are now in their own home with a newfound sense of that togetherness and an appreciation for not just Bethlehem in but the many partners like neighbor Housing Works that help them their way had been homeless has its own challenges. And when children are involved in that, there's just that many more complications and challenges for sure. And one other is is a man I'll refer to as he had gotten into some trouble. And sadly, when when someone is desperate they make, they may make bad decisions and resort to actions that stem from their sheer sense of survival. And after this hafter serving some time, he was determined not to go back to that behavior. However, if he didn't have a place to land, it would have been really difficult to jumpstart his life. He immediately found employment, he was working with counselors, he got certificates for, you know, a landlord, like landlord appreciation, he wrote letters. And within a matter of time, he was able to find that housing and be given that second chance that he was really working hard on doing all the work, you know, we we work as that that sounding board to help individuals, but it takes somebody to also to do that work.Michael Sipe:
One of the things I appreciate about you, and the work that you do is that it's, it's really easy for the community at large to sort of generalize about the quote unquote, homeless issue and helplessness and generalize about the people involved. But but you're there you have a name and a face, and you have a real story, that that humanizes the issue that it makes the success stories that come out of Atlanta man, so precious. Let's get back for though for a little bit bigger picture. Because your vision at Bethlehem in is to end homelessness in Central Oregon. So talk to us about this issue. What's the magnitude of the problem? And what do you see are the causes from your perspective?Unknown:
Well, you know, I may have a face that's out there in the public. But certainly, there are so many wonderful staff members here, volunteers that help help do the work every day, showing up on the front lines. The solution, and it is everyone jumping in where they they know they can they can make a difference. The the magnitude of the problem really, you know, starts from that lack of affordable housing, you know, and that creates that discouraging disparity for those who are challenged to make a life here in Central Oregon. It is not easy. A contributing factor also stems from enough money to live here, where the wages are just not keeping up with the cost of living. And so that that disparity is there between those that that can't afford and, and those that can't. The issue of poverty, however, is not just financial, it is relational. And it is ever so hard to keep up with the bills and balancing limited resources between housing medication, really is when bridges have been burned. Or perhaps they were just never there in the first place. And there's really no one to turn to. And thankfully, many of the agencies that we work with in this field, are focusing on strengthening those relationships, and trying to, you know, understand where people are on and meeting them where they're at. So they can help them build those connections. Many of the families that families and individuals that leave Bethlehem in have done so because they've reunited with families and that is ever so important.Michael Sipe:
So can you give us just a couple of recommendations for how we as a community address the challenges you just mentioned.Unknown:
You know, the the homeless Leadership Coalition is an amazing organization run by volunteers and the meeting their website SEO homeless.org looks at the the issues the problems, talks about what the what the staggering numbers are of people that are out there and provide so many opportunities for helping out I think, you know, Bethlehem men started as a community, grassroots organizations through those churches that came together, and despite differences, you know, they work together for a common cause you know that Is that is so refreshing these days. And so you know, it is seeing what people are doing understanding you know where your own passions are and jumping in to find, find where you can make a difference.Michael Sipe:
So let's go back to Bethlehem. And specifically, what's your vision for the in over the next five years? And how can our listeners support you in that?Unknown:
Well, we are not able to sit on our laurels, you know, we have to continue to work with our partners, building relationships, so that we can, together provide positive solutions and alternatives to being left out in the cold. We have a lot of resources and an amazing, generous community. So it is finding, you know, what, what calls you to jump in to volunteer to join a board a committee, donating to a cause that you are that's near to your heart, or finding a way to, you know, contribute your talents and resources. So much as possible, we work together. Our vision, you know, is to really get both campuses up and running. It would be you know, we have a 10 year vision of ending homelessness in Central Oregon. But we alone are not doing that we are doing it together with our partner. So we'll continue to weave together that safety net so less people fall through the cracks, and more people can come out of homelessness, rather than going into itMichael Sipe:
when I know you as a leader and as a doer, but also as a great encourager of others. So as we wrap up today, I wonder if you have maybe have a word of encouragement about these issues or topics that you might have for us today.Unknown:
I think we all have something that we can offer and and giving of ourselves that that that servant heart is something that comes back to you and provides such wonderful rewards. You know, we are we are a an amazing community that comes together when there's crisis. And this is a crisis situation. So it is something that we look to our community leaders to help provide some leadership. But it really is the the grassroot level community that gets to jump in and help help bring this this problem to a workable solution that provides opportunities for people in the world that otherwise they might not find. Go ahead with, visit our website, and consider volunteering for our organization or others and, and just learn more about the the issues and the challenges, and what is being done and what still has toMichael Sipe:
go in. It's been great having you on the show, congratulations on all you've accomplished and on the division in the direction that you're heading with Bethlehem man, I have a couple of takeaways from our conversation today. One the importance of having a name and a face to the people involved. You know, every single person affected by this is a is a daughter or son, husband or a wife, a father, a mother, a child. They're real people. And one of the things I appreciate about you is how you bring both on the website and in our conversations you bring the the face of the of the people involved to to us to consider as as human beings. And the other thing that I take away from our conversation and also from so many of the other conversations I'm having with people involved in this is the absolute importance of relationship. We can make policies we can distribute money, we can distribute food and clothes but the relationships that get created at a place like a man and through the other service providers in town are so critical to this. So thank you very much for all the work you're doing and thanks for your time and message today.Unknown:
Thank you very much for the conversation. Mike.Michael Sipe:
My guest for the show has been when wisely executive director of Bethlehem in. You can learn more about Bethlehem in at Bethlehem n.org That's Bethlehem in.org Thanks for tuning in.Narrator:
Thanks for listening to cascade views with Michael SIPE. To find out more about Mike the upcoming election. The key issues he's focused on in his campaign to represent Central Oregon and Salem as a state representative. Visit www dot a voice for Central oregon.com that's www dot a voice for Central oregon.com You can get your own copy of Michael sites best selling book The Avada email@example.com and finally please vote in the upcoming election Your Voice Matters