One of the things Portland has been a leader in trying to solve the problem of homelessness is to dedicate areas as villages. Other major cities have followed our lead. The dedicated or managed tent cities have come a long way from a spray of tents here and there to an acre or two of dedicated land to create a permanent space. Dignity Village, created in 2000, has grown up a great deal from a tented area into into a village; a model space with rules and regulations, monitored by the citizens themselves.
|Dignity Village 2009|
And then we took the idea of a permanent home a step further. Over the past two years we have refined our approach. Mayor Ted Wheeler thought living in a tent wasn't a great viable means of living. So we started building tiny homes so people could get out of the elements. Port-a-potties and fresh water are supplied by the city. So now there are choices in our town: shelters, tents, tiny houses.
|Dignity Village today|
Not long ago, we had dedicated land given by the city to house homeless women in my neighborhood. The village is named Kenton Women's Village. It is a fenced-off area with wood stakes in the chain links for privacy. Not yet knowing what this was, I would see women working out by the road, pulling weeds. Turns out it is a year-long pilot project that has 14 tiny houses for single occupancy. It is self-governed with Catholic Charities as overseers. Homeless women are often not comfortable in shelters, feeling vulnerable to disruption and perhaps abuse. This village gives them a door to lock and a sense of home.
|Kenton Women's Village|
I love the village idea, the tiny houses ideas. One idea is to open our own yards to tiny houses if we have the space and desire to help in that way. While we have added many more shelter beds throughout the city, it is the tents and tiny houses that bring the community into the lives of transient people. They have a place to belong. A home, a space to call their own.