Kenton neighborhood votes yes for tiny-home village for homeless women
More than 200 people packed into Disjecta in North Portland to vote on whether or not to establish the POD (Partners On Dwelling) project at 2221 N. Argyle St. in the Kenton neighborhood.
Though there was some contention on both sides of the issue, the neighborhood ultimately voted to support the project, at 178 in favor and 75 opposed.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and Marc Jolin, director of the Joint Office of Homeless Services were present along with other organizers on the project, including Catholic Charities, Portland State University, Village Coalition, Kenton Business Association and Kenton Neighborhood Association.
"Ultimately we just want to be able to deliver on the goodness we've made here to create a community that is supportive to the women and also to the neighborhood," Jolin said.
The city, county, and a number of other organizers involved in the project had said they would not go forward without neighborhood support.
This means the year-long pilot project will move forward, where by sometime in April, 14 women who were homeless will live in the tiny homes and eventually transition into permanent housing.
Many raised concerns at the meeting before the tally was announced, several citing distrust of the city in how it has dealt with other homeless camps.
"Everyone's got a stake in not allowing those kinds of problems to emerge because it will reflect badly on the community," Jolin said.
This is the first time an organized village with oversight has existed in Portland and could pave the way for others in the future. Villages like this already exist in other cities in the country, including in Eugene. This village is closely modeling OpportUNITY Village in Eugene. Eugene is already planning for another village called Emerald Village.
"This is historic for the coalition," said Vahid Brown, of the Village Coalition. "We're going to do everything we can to make this succeed so this can be replicated elsewhere."
He said someone at the meeting approached the coalition from another Portland neighborhood and said they're also having conversations about a tiny-home village.
"We're also looking outside of Portland. Other jurisdictions in the metro region are interested in doing this," he said. According to the coalition, Clackamas County has expressed interest in a village for homeless veterans.
Eudaly told the neighborhood that the city can't solve homelessness on its own and that the city is 1,700 supported housing units short, meaning units that offer mental health and other services to those who need it.
To make matters worse, the city also has a deficit of affordable housing. The most recent numbers from Portland Housing Bureau from 2009-2013 show a deficit of 19,770 affordable units in Portland and a deficit of 23,585 units in Multnomah County for those in the 0-30 percent income bracket (those who are generally homeless).
Many residents who attended mingled and discussed Portland's homeless and housing crisis. During the Q&A session several issues were raised, including how the village in Kenton will be managed.
However, the mayor said organizers will see it through. Organizers created a Good Neighborhood Agreement that details who is responsible for what. Catholic Charities bears the most responsibility of all involved in managing the site.
"And if there's anything that needs troubleshooting, or problem solving that needs to happen in the community, I'm promising to be responsive to those needs. I promise to be present to address those," Wheeler said.
See previous stories about the project at: pamplinmedia.com/pt/9-news/348928-228390-will-tiny-home-project-finally-have-a-home