Portland's first "sleeping pod" village might take root in Kenton.
For weeks, the Mercury has learned, Mayor Charlie Hales' Office has been quietly pitching the North Portland neighborhood on an idea: The city wants to put 14 newly build tiny homes designed for homeless Portlanders on a plot of city-owned land near Kenton Park.
As devised in a formal proposal [PDF] Hales' office sent the Kenton Neighborhood Association (KNA) earlier today, the new "Argyle Village" would house 14 homeless women at a time. It would have on-site services from the nonprofit Catholic Charities, which would help residents find homes, support self-governance of residents, and contract with the city for "sanitation, lighting, fencing, etc."
"The strong leadership and organizational capacity of a managing partner such as Catholic Charities fills a gap in the existing village model in our community and creates the opportunity to ensure a quality living environment in the Village, access to necessary transition services for the residents, and effective ongoing partnership with the community, the City of Portland, and the Joint Office of Homeless Services," the proposal reads.
The village could be established by February—and provide a new model for housing the homeless as Portland continues to grapple with a crisis being felt up and down the West Coast.
"They’re trying to do this as an accelerated timeline situation," KNA Chair Tyler Roppe tells the Mercury. "My personal feeling is it might be feasible. It might be something the neighborhood can get behind."
The fast-moving proposal is another sign of the urgency Hales feels to set the stage for an organized tiny house community before he leaves office next month. The mayor's office has worked for months to create "pods" that might be turned into small villages around town. But he's also gotten a boost by the Village Coalition, a group of activists, advocates, faith leaders, architects and more, that just designed and built the 14 innovative tiny structures the city is hoping to place in Kenton (the city pitched in $35,500 for the build).
The effort is also partly about making good on a pledge. When Hales' office convinced a camp for homeless women to depart a piece of city-owned land in May, it promised to have another plot available in two weeks. But that land never emerged.
Now staffers in Hales' office are hoping they've found it at 2221 N Argyle, which is owned by the Portland Development Commission.
According to Roppe, representatives from Hales' office, Catholic Charities, and the county's Joint Office of Homeless Services plan to attend a neighborhood association meeting tomorrow evening to pitch the plan. Roppe posted the proposal on the KNA's website to make residents aware of the idea.
Roppe says the land where the camp might go is sometimes called "the mattress dump" by neighbors, and that it's "been underutilized."
"I don't think it's in anyone's back yard," he says.
But there are also raw feelings in Kenton, Roppe says, stemming from a transitional housing shelter that recently operated in an old hotel on North Interstate. That wasn't a city-sponsored operation. According to Willamette Week, it was funded by the Multnomah Education Service District.
Still, Roppe notes similarities.
"A lot of problems ensued," he says. " Here you have another case where a government is coming to you with a religious partner to operate a traditional women’s shelter. That’s one of the biggest sticking points."
Here's part of the city's proposal.