Three Portland neighborhoods — downtown, Brentwood-Darlington and Hazelwood — will soon be home to the city’s first “safe rest villages.”
Commissioner Dan Ryan, who is leading the effort to construct six city-sanctioned outdoor homeless villages by the end of the year, announced the first three locations during a press conference Thursday. He said the sites are a critical response to the “humanitarian crisis” unfolding on Portland’s streets.
While there has not been an official count of Portland’s homeless population since 2019, encampments appear to have proliferated during the pandemic. Portlanders reported over 60,000 campsites to the city during the last fiscal year — up from about 40,000 the year prior.
These first three villages, Ryan said, were the humane response.
These villages will be outdoor shelters where people experiencing homelessness can safely camp and receive basic services. They will offer showers, beds, bathrooms and offer support services including case management and mental health support.
“Just open your eyes,” Ryan told reporters Thursday. “We can’t wait for affordable housing to be ready for every houseless person.”
The villages will be located at:
- Southeast 122nd and Burnside, on a portion of TriMet’s Menlo Park Park & Ride transit parking area;
- A lot in the 2300 block of Southwest Naito Parkway owned by the city and the Oregon Department of Transportation;
- A city-owned lot at 8330 SE 45th Avenue near the Springwater Corridor Trail.
Ryan, who oversees the city-side of the Joint Office of Homeless Services, emphasized the sites would not be “tent camps” and each village will be fenced with each individual possessing their own “sleeping pod.” Combined, the city expects the three sites to host about 120 people. TriMet’s property would house about 60 pods, the property downtown would house about 40, and the site near Springwater Corridor would house roughly 20.
According to the city’s website, the downtown site will house an already existing outdoor shelter called Queer Affinity Village, which the city and county opened for the LGBTQ community during the pandemic. The Portland Tribune reported that the city had agreed pre-pandemic to turn over the land to a developer and would need to relocate the shelter.
Ryan first announced his plan for the villages this summer, which he said could be funded by about $16 million from the federal money the city received through the American Rescue Plan. But the push to get the villages up and running has been slow. Ryan’s office first released a list of city property in July where shelters could potentially be located. The original plan was to narrow the list down to six and have the shelters built by late December.
But Ryan’s office has said much of the property was ultimately unsuitable for the villages they envisioned. Instead, they looked to other jurisdictions to provide the land. The downtown shelter will be on land owned both by ODOT and the city’s transportation bureau. The site at Southeast 122nd and Burnside is owned by TriMet.
Sam Desue, TriMet’s new general manager, said he expects the city will use the park for the next two to three years. Ryan said his office is still aiming to have the shelters operational by the end of the year and plans to announce the other three locations soon. His staff said each site needs more amenities before people can shelter there. The city needs to connect each site to water and sewer lines and ink contracts with service providers.
“I like to set ambitious goals,” Ryan said. “If we don’t meet that, we just keep getting up and pursuing it.”