Governments should help Safe Rest Villages, community leaders say
Dozens of community leaders are calling on governments in the region to do more to help Portland Commissioner Dan Ryan to site and build the six Safe Rest Villages he has proposed for the homeless.
In an Oct. 27 memorandum, the leaders propose several locations owned by the governments that could be used for the managed shelters. They include Metro's underused Portland Expo Center, the Port of Portland's Terminal 1 and 2, Prosper Portland's undeveloped downtown post office site, and underutilized Portland Public School property.
"From our previous affiliations with the agencies addressed, we are confident that, when challenged, they can each locate among their unused properties 'A City Block' suitable as a temporary village site," it reads.
As championed by Ryan, the villages will include sleeping pods, common utilities and wrap-around services to move the residents into permanent housing.
The memorandum was signed by community leaders such as truck stop owner Al Jubitz, consultant Doug Obletz, developer John Russell, former Portland City Commissioner Mike Lindberg, former Willamette Week publisher Ron Buel, Columbia Sportswear President and CEO Tim Boyle and many others.
The memorandum is addressed to elected officials ranging from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to Metro President Lynn Peterson, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, Mayor Ted Wheeler and more.
Ryan has only identified two locations so far: one on Naito Parkway and the other on Southeast 122nd and Burnside. They are and the memorandum calls that response "disappointing."
The Oregonian/Oregonlive has reported a third potential site could be along Northeast 42nd Avenue, just north of Killingsworth Street. The property, which abuts Fernhill Park, was formerly home to Whitaker Middle School, before the mold- and radon-ridden structure was demolished in 2007. Portland Public Schools has yet to agree, however.
"Commissioner Dan Ryan's Safe Rest Villages initiative has great promise as a timely approach that must not be permitted to fail by the various local agencies, particularly when the city has identified sufficient funding for site improvements, prefab designs and construction costs, and the city's Office of Management and Finance has been authorized to act. This is the time where partnership and collaboration can make the transformative difference most needed for all of our community to thrive. Meeting the initial project goal of six sites would be the humanitarian move that shelters more than 300 of our community members before year's end," the memorandum reads.
The memorandum was released on Thursday, Oct. 28, the same day that Ryan briefed the Multnomah County Commission on the project.
"The Safe Rest Villages will be outdoor shelters — not tents," Ryan explained. "At meetings when I'm in the community lately, I want to keep repeating "not tents" many times. The Safe Rest Villages are about public health, environmental health and community safety."
The memorandum and signers can be found here.
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