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A group has been formed to welcome the homeless to the Southwest Portland Safe Rest Village.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO:  FRIENDS OF THE MULTNOMAH SAFE REST VILLAGE - Welcome kits  prepared by Friends of the Multnomah Safe Rest Village at the Lutheran Church in Multnomah Village.It has been three months since the Multnomah Village Safe Rest Village (SRV) opened in our neighborhood. The Safe Rest Villages are part of a system-wide response to our housing crisis; our SRV is one of six such facilities proposed by Commissioner Dan Ryan and funded through the City with federal grants.

A small gathering of 30 tiny houses, the SRV has welcomed several dozen people who were formerly homeless. The site is managed by the local nonprofit All Good Northwest, and participants are provided with full-time staff and essential services — case management, peer support, housing and employment navigation, and behavioral health — to help them get back on their feet. Each individual has a tiny house with electricity, air conditioning, heat, shelving, and a bed. The site also features fully-plumbed bathrooms and showers, trash pick-up, and a shared kitchen. With full-time support, participants will move on to permanent housing, making room for new participants.

The Multnomah SRV has been effective to date in bringing people off the streets and providing them with safety and support, while not disturbing the surrounding neighborhood.

We have formed a grassroots group of neighbors, Friends of the Multnomah Safe Rest Village, to support the work of the All Good staff and SRV participants. Allies include local churches, businesses, and community groups.

Despite the concerns of some who fear what it might bring to our community, the Multnomah SRV has proven to be a good neighbor. In fact, it goes almost unnoticed by most who pass by on Multnomah Boulevard, located as it is behind a busy road construction staging site and protected by a wood fence. Though AllGood staff have received complaints about illegal camping, trash, and other issues, these problems existed in our neighborhood long before the SRV arrived. Unfortunately, there has been one case of vandalism to a participant's vehicle by someone from outside the SRV, including obscene graffiti and severe damage. But overall, things have been quiet.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Heather Zerr, a housing navigation specialist with All Good Northwest, shows what a 12 x12 pod looks like at Multnomah Safe Rest Village.City staff are working hard with Multnomah neighbors, convened by the Multnomah Neighborhood Association, to hammer out a protective "good neighbor agreement." The agreement covers topics such as peripheral camping, safe walking routes to schools, and methods of resolving possible conflict. To its credit, the nearby West Hills Christian School has proven to be an especially constructive player in these negotiations.

Our Multnomah Safe Rest Village is a small but important piece of the puzzle of solving an overwhelming problem. We appreciate the efforts of Commissioner Ryan and his staff to create these villages despite opposition by some neighbors in every part of the city.

We will continue to see unsanctioned homeless camps come and go as the City and County struggle to respond to the crisis. Clearing camps with little warning or support for those evicted inevitably pushes the problem elsewhere, and leaves people suffering on the streets. Yet we see signs of hope as the voter-approved Metro Supportive Housing Services measure expands rent assistance, shelter capacity, and permanent housing.

We are heartened by the outpouring of support from hundreds of neighbors, the local faith community, and many neighborhood businesses. We feel an obligation to support this and other worthy efforts to help our houseless community members. We must all be part of the solution.

Robin Schauffler, Chris Dearth and Ruth Adkins are residents of Portland's Multnomah neighborhood who founded Friends of the Multnomah Safe Rest Village.

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