Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan identified four new sites for the city’s long-awaited “safe rest villages” Thursday and pledged to cut through bureaucratic red tape to get the outdoor shelters off the ground.
Ryan said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has signed an emergency order that will expedite the process for citing shelters. The emergency order, signed by the mayor on Wednesday, allows him to take control of city-owned or leased property from city bureaus whose staff may be reluctant to see their department’s land taken for temporary use as a shelter.
“We’ve faced a few headwinds both from the community and from internal bureaucracy,” Ryan said. “Today, we’re here to address internal headwinds.”
Ryan said he found out last week that the emergency order that would allow his staff to “move like we’re in an emergency” was brewing in the mayor’s office.
“I’ll take what I can get,” he said.
Three of the four sites announced Thursday are city-owned properties. The locations are:
- 6631 N. Syracuse St: A site owned by the Portland Housing Bureau along the Peninsula Crossing Trail
- 9827 N.E. Sunderland Ave.: A Portland Bureau of Transportation-owned property that will be used as a “safe park village” for people experiencing homelesseness who live in their cars
- A privately owned plot of land along Northwest Naito Parkway
- 106th block of Southeast Reedway: A plot of land owned by the Bureau of Environmental Services.
It’s been over half a year since Ryan, who is up for reelection in May, announced his intent to build six villages. Though he originally said he planned for them to be completed by the end of 2021, he’s said he’s experienced a series of setbacks, including what he describes as cumbersome restrictions on federal money, neighborhood pushback, and reluctance from city bureaus. None of the camps have opened yet.
Thursday’s news brings the total number of announced safe rest villages to six. The city is also working on shelters at Menlo Park Park & Ride and the Sears Armory. Ryan said he expects each village to house up to 60 sleeping pods, similar to tiny houses with heat and electricity. He believes all shelters will be open by sometime this year.
The villages will all be outdoor shelters at which people experiencing homelessness can safely camp and receive basic services. They will offer showers, beds, bathrooms and support services, including case management and mental health support.
“We are adding options for people who need options,” said Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, who oversees areas of north and Northeast Portland where two of the new villages will be placed. “What these safer rest villages do in addition to the rest of our continuum of care is expand that reach of options.”