UPDATE: Negotiations continue on the other sites championed by Commissioner Dan Ryan

COURTESY PHOTO: CITY OF PORTLAND - The small shelters at the first Safe Rest Village to open on Friday, May 13.As the first of six Safe Rest Villages opened in the 2300 block of Southwest Naito Parkway, progress was reportedly being made to address neighbors' concerns.

Commissioner Dan Ryan, who is championing the six proposed managed homeless camps, has met with stakeholders there multiple times after they {obj:62706: recently withdrew their support for the village} on May 6 over safety worries before it opened. It relocates the Queer Affinity Village that needs to be moved for redevelopment.

"Today, the builders—the Safe Rest Villages team, and the providers—All Good Northwest, welcomed Participants at the SW Naito Queer Affinity Village.We are proud of this successful transition, and we are thrilled to work with every Participant to build their resilience and take their next step on the pathway from streets to stability," Ryan's office said as the site opened on Friday, May 13.

Before that, on Thursday evening, following a final talk with Ryan, the 2300 SW Naito Stakeholders Group said, "We are feeling cautiously optimistic that our three primary requests, which will enhance the security and well-being of Village participants, children and neighbors, are being heard."

The group wants:

• Basic background checks if a Safe Rest Village is within 500 feet of a school

• A strictly enforced 1,000-foot buffer zone to stop satellite camping or criminal activity

• A Safe Rest Village advisory board for oversight

Ryan's office released the following statement around 3:15 p.m. Thursday:

"Understandably, community members and school leadership from the 2300 SW Naito Parkway Stakeholder Group have concerns regarding the SW Naito Queer Affinity Safe Rest Village. We heard that at the Town Hall on Tuesday night and in their direct outreach. We respect the diverse neighborhood stakeholders, school leaders and the communities they serve, and we appreciate their willingness to engage in difficult conversations to help build this Village into a model of success.

"Commissioner Ryan's team is staying earnestly at the table with the 2300 SW Naito Parkway Stakeholder Group and working in partnership with the following members of the Streets to Stability team to ensure the continued success and safety of participants at the Queer Affinity Safe Rest Village as well as neighboring schools, businesses, and community residents:

• Nate Takara, Street Services Coordination Center

• Sgt. Matt Jacobson, PPB, Neighborhood Response Team

• Shannon Singleton, Joint Office of Homeless Services

• Skyler Brocker-Knapp, Mayor's office

• Andy Goebel, All Good NW

"This team is fully confident the participants moving over to the QA Village do not pose concerns to the safety and security within and outside the village.

"The group listed above is also committed to working toward solutions to the following requests:

• Develop a Community Safety Plan. In partnership with the Neighborhood Response Team and the Street Services Coordination Center, the city is committed to creating a school safety plan that meets the needs of Naito neighbors.

• Clearly define the intake and low-barrier screening process that ensures the safety and well-being of village participants and neighboring students and residents.

• Create advisory boards in neighborhoods where villages are located. They will be developed through the Good Neighbor Agreement process at each location through community conversation and in concert with the Joint Office of Homeless Services to shape the structure and implementation of such boards.

"The Safe Rest Village initiative is a commitment to be the "City that Works" for all Portlanders. We are committed to transparency and engagement in this process, and we will continue to share our progress addressing houselessness in Portland with our community."

Other neighborhoods still concerned

Meanwhile, a Southeast Portland neighborhood is still fighting against the city's plan to build a Safe Rest Village in Lents. It is proposed to be installed near Southeast 106th Avenue and Reedway Street, but the timetable is unknown.

There was no shortage of questions from people concerned about the Safe Rest Village site planned for Lents when Jake Dornblasser with Ryan's office spoke at the Lents Neighborhood Association meeting Thursday.

The big issue these neighbors have with the site is potential drug use and other crimes, which they say they see a lot of it in existing homeless camps. And they want to know what will stop it from happening at the safe rest site.

"My neighborhood has been terrorized for four years," said Todd Littlefield, who lives in the Lents area. "We had drug deals going on all night. We had a chop shop going on all night."

Littlefield, however, said the Safe Rest approach won't put a dent in solving the homeless crisis.

"When people talk about or they say we have a housed problem, that is not the problem, OK. We have a behavior problem, and the behavior comes from the drugs they're taking and the mental illness. So unless we address those two issues, they're going to destroy whatever housing they get," he said.

Dornblasser said shelters will have a code of conduct. There will be criteria in place that if a villager is making it unsafe for other villagers, they won't be able to stay there. That code of conduct, however, is unknown at this point.

And some neighbors near the Safe Rest Village being installed at the Sears Armory in Southwest Portland continue to oppose it for similar reasons.

KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune.

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