Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan announced a plan to build six managed villages for people experiencing homelessness in the city by the end of this year.
Ryan said $20 million in federal coronavirus relief dollars would be used to set up six outdoor sites and provide basic hygiene and support services: laundry, showers, handwashing stations, portable toilets and food. The city-Multnomah County Joint Office of Homeless Services will provide case management for people living in the villages.
New land for city sanctioned outdoor shelters became available this spring after the council passed a sweeping zoning code change to make it easier for providers to site shelters across Portland. The package also directed city bureaus to detail what land they own that could be made available for shelters. .
Ryan’s office said there are still no firm details on where the six campsites will be located or how many people they will serve.
The Oregonian/OregonLive and Willamette Week first reported Ryan’s announcement.
Ryan said in a statement Wednesday that the six villages are part of a concept he began discussing in April. The commissioner had expressed interest in a “safe park program” for people experiencing homelessness who live in their cars. He said he wanted to see two locations: one for people who have recently lost their homes and another location for people who have been living out of their cars or RVs for a longer period of time.
“Our regional initiative to create managed villages while we work to end houselessness — with full support from Chair Kafoury, Commissioner [Sharon] Meieran, and my colleagues on City Council — is progressing quickly, but we still have a number of details to finalize due to our collaborative, multi-jurisdictional approach,” Ryan said in an emailed statement. “I am still pursuing safe parking with wraparound services as part of our solution, and my office will have more information to share in the near future.”
Ryan’s office stated it plans to introduce an ordinance “to codify the City’s approach,” and would like to start building shelters in September. He added that the plan has a full backing from local leaders, as well Metro, the regional government for the greater Portland area. The county and city have sometimes sparred in recent months over how to best use dollars from Metro’s $250 million homeless service measure. But Ryan said that, on this issue, local leaders were walking in lockstep.
Asked about the homeless village plan on a Wednesday call hosted by Rose City Downtown Collective, a new group representing downtown business interests, both Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Marc Jolin, the head of the Joint Office of Homeless Services, emphasized the plan was in the early stages and details were sparse.
Jolin said the services at the six sites would likely mimic what’s offered at other county-run shelters with an emphasis on wraparound support that prioritizes moving people into housing.
“That model is what we’ve been building for all of our shelters. I don’t see why this will be any different with the new sites as we get a better understanding of how they’re structured, who they’re designed to serve, and what kinds of needs the folks in those spaces will have.”