(541) 649-2618 info@covillages.org

History of Central Oregon Villages

Central Oregon Villages grew out of informal weekly meetings among interested individuals from several churches in Bend, including First United Methodist Church of Bend (now Bend Church), First Baptist Church of Bend (now Foundry Church) and Grace Bible Church. All the individuals had volunteered together over several years engaging in outreach to persons living in unsanctioned camps in the Central Oregon area. The group began discussing the vision of having an organized, managed camp that would provide a safe and secure environment for persons experiencing homelessness.

Efforts by the group began to formalize over the summer of 2020. Representatives from Shepherd’s House and from St. Vincent DePaul Bend joined in the discussions. In summer 2020 a bill was introduced in the Oregon state legislature which would put in abeyance restrictive city zoning that precluded placement of a managed camp on either public or private land. When the bill passed late summer 2020 it set aside restrictive zoning but for a short 90-day window only.

The working group contacted SquareOne Villages of Eugene, which since 2013 had operated Opportunity Village there, a managed camp location of 30 sites. SquareOne agreed to come to Bend and establish a camp similar to Opportunity Village but first requested a fiscal agent be designated in Bend for SquareOne to work with. Bend Church agreed to be the fiscal agent and the working group, Bend Church and SquareOne Villages entered into an Affiliation Agreement with one another to carry forward that vision.

Under the 90-day window legislation, Bend Heroes Foundation/Central Oregon Veterans Outreach, St. Vincent DePaul Bend and the working group of individuals plus Bend Church and SquareOne Villages all submitted applications to the city for a managed camp. The city of Bend accepted the applications of Bend Heroes Foundation/Central Oregon Veterans Outreach for their “Veterans Village” and St. Vincent DePaul Bend for its “Micro-Village” because Deschutes County had agreed to provide land on the Deschutes County Public Safety campus for the proposed Veterans Village and because St. Vincent DePaul Bend owned the land on which it proposed to place its village. But because the working group plus Bend Church/SquareOne application requested approval for establishing a managed camp on city-owned land, and the city had not yet identified available land, that application was not approved.

But the group did not abandon the project. Bend Church and SquareOne Villages jointly applied for a grant from the state of Oregon in late 2020 for funding to establish a managed camp like Opportunity Village in Bend and the state awarded Bend Church/SquareOne $317,525 in funding. Additionally, Bend Church provided $100,000 from a large family bequest to go toward establishing a managed camp in Bend that would be laid out along the lines of a state park.


Nicky Merritt
Executive Director

Board of Directors

Jim Porter
President, Retired Bend Chief of Police.

Rev. Jen Stuart
Vice President and Lead Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Bend (Bend Church)

Chuck Hemingway
Program Manager (Volunteer). Retired attorney & retired military

Ken Mays
Secretary and retired Director, COCC Automotive Studies Program and longtime homeless advocate

Tom Stutheit
Secretary and founder former administrator of Community Shower Truck and longtime homeless advocate

DeeDee Johnson
Director, Vice President of Homeowner Services, Bend/Redmond Habitat for Humanity

Lisa Burley
Director, past board president of St. Vincent dePaul, Bend and current board member of St. Vincent dePaul

James Cook
Director, former Co-Chair Central Oregon Homeless Leadership Coalition (HLC) and current HLC member

Dan Bryant
Ex Officio Board Member. Executive Director, SquareOne Villages, Eugene

Advisory Board

Leslie Hopper
Retired city planner

Skipper Lay
Retired attorney

Gary Hewitt
Executive Director, St. Vincent dePaul, Bend