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Will tiny-home project finally have a home?
Update, March 8, 9 p.m.: After many passionate speeches and questions from both Kenton neighborhood residents and organizers alike at the March 8 neighborhood meeting, the neighborhood ultimately voted in favor of the tiny-home project: 178 people in favor and 75 opposed. This means the year-long pilot project will move forward, where 14 women who were homeless will be selected by Catholic Charities to live in the tiny homes and eventually transition into permanent housing. This is the first time an organized village with oversight from various organizations and the government has existed in Portland and could pave the way for others in the future. There are talks of a similar POD village in Clackamas County. Villages like these already exist in other cities across the country, including in Eugene.
The city has placed a stamp of approval on organized tiny-home villages, not as the solution, but a "good next step" in getting homeless people off the street and into shelter.
On Tuesday, Mayor Ted Wheeler took reporters on a tour of tiny-home models constructed by area architects that could be used at a site in North Portland's Kenton neighborhood, where a plan is being devised to give roofs to 14 women who were homeless.
"We don't see this as an end solution. This is not permanent housing, this is not necessarily supported housing," Wheeler said. "But it's a good next step and it would be part of a larger spectrum of opportunities addressing the homelessness situation in our community."
The plan for 2221 N. Argyle St., which is owned by the Portland Development Commission, involves many partners, including the city, the city-county Joint Office of Homeless Services, Catholic Charities, Portland State University and Village Coalition. The hope is to use the tiny homes, also called the POD project (Partners On Dwelling), as transitional homes in a one-year pilot project.
Though it's not under a contract, organizers want neighborhood support before installing the tiny-home village in Kenton. A vote will take place at a meeting tomorrow night, March 8. While the mayor is optimistic about the vote, Kenton Neighborhood Association President Tyler Roppe isn't sure. The neighborhood released an online survey where they observed a raise in opposition.
"We were at a 10 to 15 percent vehemently opposed, but as the survey has gone on, it has raised over 20 percent," he says. The survey reached almost 500 people. Nearly 40 percent voted in favor, a little more than 20 percent were opposed, and the rest were undecided, unsure with reservations, or marked "other." Survey results showed safety and security, oversight and accountability, and illegal camping as areas of concern.
"I don't really know what to expect. I think it's going to be a little chaotic. I think there's going to be a lot of people showing up," he tells the Tribune. He says people in the neighborhood have been very passionate about the issue, those who can't attend even being "broken hearted" that the only way to vote is in person, at the meeting, due to the association's bylaws.
Organizations involved met with the neighborhood association on Monday, March 6, to draft a "Good Neighborhood Agreement," a process that was overseen by the city's Office of Neighborhood Involvement, according to Roppe.
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who oversees the office, supports the Kenton project.
"I hope it succeeds and that Kenton can be a case study for other neighborhoods, because (homelessness) is really a city-wide issue, and it's everyone's problem," she said.
The Kenton POD project used Hazelnut Grove, a village that was established for homeless people in the Overlook Neighborhood, as a case study. That site is not getting the same level of support or oversight from organizations and governments, however.
The mayor spent the night there during his campaign. "Hazelnut Grove was not originally sanctioned by the city. It was started and then it was allowed to expand by the previous administration," Wheeler said.
He didn't comment on the future of Hazelnut Grove, but plans to attend the March 21 Overlook Neighborhood Association meeting. Residents there have grown concerned over Hazelnut Grove and its lack of oversight.
Overlook Neighborhood Association President Chris Trejbal would like to see similar arrangements happening in Kenton, for their neighborhood.
"They're developing together a Good Neighborhood Agreement, there's going to be service providers coming and making sure that people in the camp receive services that they need, and transition back into housing and back into jobs," Trejbal says. "I think these are all great things and this is the way the city should be going about this."
Roppe says the agreement is only a few pages long and details who is responsible for what, including things like property management and garbage removal.
Both Wheeler and Roppe pointed to Catholic Charities, a nonprofit social service organization, as managing the site. It's also the organization responsible for screening and selecting the women for the village. Trell Anderson, director of community development and housing, says the women have not yet been selected out of respect for the neighborhood vote.
Wheeler reiterated that if the neighborhood agrees to the proposal, the city would be "full partners in making sure that this is a successful pilot program for the community."
"That includes the city, it includes the county, and it includes our Joint Office of Homeless Services. So we're not just going to cut the neighborhood loose and say, here you go," Wheeler said. "We're going to continue to follow this and support it through the entire year process."
Organizers are asking the neighborhood as a courtesy, Roppe said; technically they don't have to oblige the neighborhood if they vote no. However, Wheeler said they will accept Kenton's vote, whatever the outcome.
"If the neighborhood says they don't want it, they won't support it, we'll respect that vote and we'll look for an alternative location," he said.
He also said that Portland could potentially see more tiny-home villages in the future.
"Assuming that this pilot is successful then I would expect that we'll see other tiny-home villages in the community as well," he said, but again emphasized that tiny homes are not "the best permanent solution."
Regardless of whether the tiny-home village goes forward there or not, the site is still planned to help those who don't have a home, and in a more permanent way.
In 2018, city-county funded nonprofit Transition Projects Inc., the area's largest provider of shelter for homeless people, plans to develop a 72-unit "innovative" affordable housing project for those who have ended their homelessness.
See previous Tribune stories about the Kenton POD project at