Right 2 Dream Too adds more sleeping pods
Infill is coming — even at R2D2.
Equipped with saws and hammers, volunteers spent Saturday, July 21, building four new sleeping pods at Right 2 Dream Too, located at 999 N. Thunderbird Way just across the street from Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The city-sanctioned but self-organized homeless rest area has resided on a triangle-shaped lot owned by the Bureau of Transportation since it was forced out of downtown Portland in June 2017 following a lawsuit filed by hotel developers.
At least their new neighbors know how to make a stranger feel welcome.
Lloyd EcoDistrict, a local nonprofit, raised about $20,000 in donations for the new "tiny home" style abodes, which cost about $2,000 a pop. The remaining cash helped R2D2 pay off its bills for utilities, a perimeter fence they're required to rent and maintenance of the portable toilets.
"Our mission is to create the most sustainable neighborhood in North America," explains executive director Sarah Heinicke. "We're trying to do that through community resilience. If our weakest members are strengthened, then we all become stronger."
The four new and 13 pre-existing pods provide four walls, a roof, a window — and a locking door. Solar-powered JuiceBoxes created by Catlin Gabel students offer residents a reading light and electronics charger. Heinicke says eBay Portland outdid themselves raising money for the solar panels.
The camp sleeps a maximum of 77 overnight, with most singles gathering in large communal tents segregated by gender while the couples vie for a spot in a pod. The camp is open from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.,, though there's also an option for people who need a place to sleep after working the graveyard shift.
Resident Jerry Chandler doesn't miss the hurly-burly of the entertainment district, though he now wishes the train driver would give the whistle a rest at 3 a.m.
"There was two bars to every block," he said. "You add in the heat or the holidays — people get depressed and they try to forget."
Chandler says privacy for homeless couples is important. He won't sleep in a shelter, because it would mean separation from his wife, Sarah, and their two dogs, Ryker and Buddy.
"When you lose everything you've got to hold onto what you've got," he said. "Hopefully, someday places like this won't have to exist. Maybe they'll be resources for everybody."
About 90 people volunteered this weekend in shifts, with similar numbers when the building effort began earlier this month.
Using his skills as an assistant superintendent for Turner Construction Company, volunteer Niko Balster said his goal was to build the pods as close to conventional code as possible.
"Portland, like any major city, is facing with current issues of economic disparity," he said. "This is something I can do. I can give back to my community and help the disenfranchised.