Homeless within the Metropolis of Former Mayoral Workplace

BEND, Ore. — As he navigated at some point final fall by means of a crowded grid of beds at one among Oregon’s largest homeless shelters, Steve Martin, a longtime rancher and group volunteer, was dropped at a halt by a well-known voice that referred to as out from an unfamiliar face.

“Aren’t you going to say, ‘Hello,’ Steve?” mentioned the person, with eyes peering by means of curtains of white hair and a beard that flared in uncared for disarray. Mr. Martin, who spent lots of his days working among the many shelter’s residents, thought of the person’s gaunt body, trying to find a clue. Then the person spoke once more: “It’s Craig.”

The phrases jolted Mr. Martin with a mixture of recognition and disbelief. He had recognized Craig Coyner for greater than 50 years, watching with admiration as the person from one of the outstanding households in Bend, Ore., rose by means of an acclaimed profession — as a prosecutor, a protection lawyer after which a mayor who helped flip the city into one of many nation’s fastest-growing cities.

Now, at age 75, Mr. Coyner was occupying a mattress on the shelter on Second Road, his home misplaced to foreclosures, his toes gnarled by frostbite, his belongings restricted to a bathtub of tattered clothes and books on the ground subsequent to his mattress.

Within the years for the reason that two previous mates had fallen out of contact, Mr. Coyner had been pulled by means of a vortex of the identical crises that had been churning by means of many growth cities throughout the West: untreated psychological sickness, widespread habit, hovering housing prices and a waning sense of group. After a life spent as a pillar of Bend’s civic life, Mr. Coyner had by some means reached a degree of close to whole destitution, surrounded by the prosperity he had helped create.

As soon as a tiny timber city, Bend had undergone a hanging transformation in current a long time, as moneyed newcomers from Seattle or Portland or San Francisco found a getaway that managed to be each fashionable and a throwback to what everybody imagines small-town America may be. Households might float the Deschutes River in the summertime and ski the Cascades within the winter, stopping at an array of craft breweries, natural eateries, artwork galleries and — a degree of particular pleasure for the town — the final Blockbuster video retailer on Earth.

However as housing prices strained the budgets of Bend’s nurses, lecturers and law enforcement officials, homelessness soared within the metropolis of 100,000 individuals, a lot because it had in far bigger West Coast cities. RVs began parking on facet streets; individuals with full-time jobs at gasoline stations and grocery shops at occasions went dwelling to tents erected within the sagebrush alongside road medians. The shelter the place Mr. Coyner had lastly discovered refuge had been over capability for months.

Mr. Martin’s thoughts raced with questions for Mr. Coyner, as he puzzled what had transpired within the years since they final linked and the way Mr. Coyner’s life might have taken such a drastic flip. Over the following couple of months, he would decide up Mr. Coyner from the shelter on occasion, and they’d exit for drives. They stopped to get Mr. Coyner an overdue haircut at King’s Razor. They grabbed espresso on the 7-Eleven. They sat out by the municipal airport, watching the non-public planes come and go whereas reminiscing about their long-ago efforts to save lots of the airstrip from closure.

They talked extra concerning the future than the previous, with Mr. Coyner questioning how he might discover a extra everlasting place to dwell.

“He was actual discouraged that he would by no means discover something,” Mr. Martin mentioned.

However Mr. Coyner was additionally beginning to regain the optimism that had lengthy outlined his view of the town. Loads of individuals in Bend had been going by means of onerous occasions, he mentioned in an interview earlier this yr when he talked concerning the arc of his life. He had seen them overcome such occasions earlier than, and they’d achieve this once more. So would he.

“That is my city,” Mr. Coyner mentioned. “I adore it.”

A Mayor Throughout Turmoil

Mr. Coyner was born right into a household dedicated to civic responsibility.

Within the early 1900s, his great-grandfather was mayor of Bend, then a newly included outpost in central Oregon the place timber prospectors had been scooping up forestlands. Earlier than lengthy, a group as soon as often called a spot to ford the river was a key cease on a rising railroad community. A number of the largest pine mills on the earth processed logs so large that some first wanted to be break up by dynamite.

By the mid-Seventies, after getting drafted for a stint within the Marines, marrying his girlfriend from school and getting a regulation diploma in Portland, Mr. Coyner returned to Bend, following his father right into a profession as a lawyer and settling right into a compact one-story dwelling, bought for $25,500 within the northeast nook of city.

The couple had two daughters however break up up just a few years later, as Mr. Coyner, nonetheless constructing his authorized profession, at occasions grew combative at dwelling.

Itching to spar over the wonkiest authorized doctrines, he commanded such a depth of information and a talent for arguing that he saved notching victories for shoppers and irritating the native prosecutors, who determined the perfect plan of action was to rent Mr. Coyner.

“I assumed he’d be higher working in our workplace — working for us, moderately than towards us,” mentioned Mike Dugan, who was within the county prosecutor’s workplace and later turned the district lawyer.

In 1981, Mr. Coyner, who minimize a determine round city along with his tortoiseshell glasses and calculator watch, joined the Metropolis Council. He married Patty Davis, who labored promoting radio promoting round Bend, and as his former spouse additionally remarried, he stopped connecting along with his daughters.

In 1984, his fellow council members elected him as mayor.

It was a time of tumult for the town. The worldwide recession had gutted the timber trade, with much less wooden product going to clients all over the world and extra masking up home windows in Bend’s empty enterprise district. Locals feared the group was on the trail to turning into a ghost city.

Homeless individuals congregated alongside the railroad tracks that had helped set up Bend as a timber capital. On chilly nights, rail crews would intentionally go away a few of their idle practice vehicles open, offering a modest refuge.

Mr. Coyner labored with Mr. Martin to boost funds for them, at occasions going out to the railroad tracks himself to distribute donated garments and 19-cent cheeseburgers picked up from the native Arctic Circle. His connections helped individuals discover low-cost locations to dwell at a time when rooms might be rented for as little as $75 a month.

Mr. Coyner noticed it as a time to transition Bend’s economic system to one thing that might harness the encompassing pure magnificence in new methods, welcoming guests who sought to ski, hike, camp and bike.

He and fellow council members started drawing up plans to develop the sewer system and enhance highway capability. Kathie Eckman, one of many council members on the time, mentioned there was pleasure but in addition uncertainty.

“We had been warned at that time: Watch out what you would like for,” Ms. Eckman mentioned.

New Instructions

The timber mills had been shutting down, however the previous mill district started evolving into what at present is a ritzy purchasing district with an REI, a spa and a designer jewellery retailer.

Some individuals had been cautious of such swift change, and in 1992, Mr. Coyner was ousted from the Metropolis Council by rivals searching for to rein in progress. It didn’t work: Over the next decade, the county’s inhabitants grew sooner than wherever else within the state.

Mr. Coyner returned to his work as a protection lawyer, and he commonly reminded youthful friends concerning the significance of continuous to combat for individuals who had been much less lucky. He spoke about well being care and transportation and poverty and all the opposite components that may lead somebody to commit against the law.

“He would say, ‘To be efficient at that job as a public defender, it’s important to combat for options to the issues that might trigger your defendants to get entangled within the felony justice system within the first place,’” mentioned John Hummel, who joined the general public defender’s workplace in 1996 and later turned district lawyer.

Mr. Coyner had lengthy been a personable, clever lawyer who bought together with judges and shoppers, mentioned Tom Crabtree, who was the pinnacle of the general public defender’s workplace on the time. However in later years, Mr. Crabtree mentioned he watched as Mr. Coyner’s amiable nature began to develop caustic.

Judges started to report issues about…