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City Commissioner Dan Ryan has vowed to construct six Safe Rest Villages by the end of the year.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - A woman waits for the bus at the site of a planned Safe Rest Village in Southeast Portland. An underused TriMet park-and-ride on 122nd Avenue, a vacant lot on Southwest Naito Parkway near I-405, and a lot where unsanctioned camping already occurs near the Springwater Corridor.

PMG SCREENSHOT - Commissioner Dan Ryan addresses the media Sept. 29. These are the spots where Portland plans to build three self-run Safe Rest Villages and offer shelter to roughly 120 people combined, officials said Sept. 30.

"We can't wait for affordable housing to be ready for every houseless person," Commissioner Dan Ryan said during a virtual news conference. "So we have to get this started."

Villagers will live in heated and powered prefabricated pods and likely will use refurbished Conex shipping containers for bathrooms and showers, laundry facilities and for heating up food in kitchenettes equipped with refrigerators and microwaves. Residents will be selected on a referral basis from local providers, first responders and park rangers. Various case management and social services will be provided.

"The first three villages are a good step in the right direction. But Commissioner Ryan needs more support from the city, county, Metro and state governments to fulfill his goal of six or more villages. Our leaders need to act with the urgency that the crisis demands," said Dan Lavey, political consultant and con-founder of the People for Portland advocacy organization.

Ryan is racing to build the three villages — as well as another three whose locations he says will be finalized shortly — before the end of the year, using $16 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Act. That deadline is fast approaching.

"I like to set ambitious goals. And I like to be held accountable to do all we can to achieve them," Ryan said. "If we don't meet that, we'll just keep getting up and pursuing it."

The effort is likely to be controversial. A woman working at a bikini coffee kiosk across the street from the Springwater Corridor village told a Pamplin Media Group photojournalist the camp would likely put her out of a job. Other business owners have said the announcement came as a surprise.

The Naito Parkway location is near the International School of Portland. Some parents of students were concerned about their safety, but others felt it might be beneficial depending on how the camp is operated.

"I know that there needs to be something humane done. I don't know what's the right thing to do," Brandon Padilla Spradling, whose 5-year-old daughter Luna attends kindergarten there, told KOIN 6 News.

The city has not officially signed the leases for any of the three sites, nor has construction work begun. Ryan says City Hall has committed to funding the sites for the next three years.

"We are more than willing to do our part to help find solutions to the region's houseless crisis," added TriMet General Manager Sam Desue Jr., referencing the Menlo Park property.

While many had expected an Expo Center parking lot to be on the list of sites, officials say they are still identifying a property where those living in recreational vehicles can safely reside. Commissioner Ryan said the city has learned crucial lessons from the three C3PO villages, whose speedy construction led to an initial paucity of privacy, rat infestations, a lack of air conditioning and even one death, as Pamplin Media Group previously reported.

"We've been progressively improving the amenities in those spaces," Ryan said. "I think that the programming and the infrastructure will both support ensuring that folks are safe in that space."

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Some local business owners are concerned by the city's plan for a new Safe Rest Village near Southeast Harney Street and 45th Avenue along the Springwater Corridor.

Safe Rest details

Here's the preliminary details on the city's three announced Safe Rest Villages:

• The Menlo Park Park & Ride, 12202 E. Burnside St., will be loaned out by TriMet and house up to 60 sleeping pods on 50,000 square feet, with "ample remaining space" for drivers, per the city.

• The 2300 block of Southwest Naito Parkway, just north of Interstate 405, will house 40 sleeping pods on 30,000 square feet of land owned by ODOT and the city transportation bureau. This village will be the new home for the city's existing Queer Affinity village, which is being pushed out by a planned industrial office development.

• The Springwater Corridor Village, near Southeast 45th Avenue and Harney Street, will host 20 sleeping pods on 15,000 square feet of land owned by the city environmental services bureau.

KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune and contributed to this story.

Zane Sparling
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