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Pulling Up Stakes, Again

After enjoying relative stability for the past eight months, Dignity Village may soon be on the move again. Since moving from underneath the Fremont Bridge to an asphalt lot near the airport, 60 homeless men and women have created a temporary village out of pup tents and shanties. Although the homeless camp has gathered both funds and political goodwill, the agreement with the city to remain on their current site is running out of time; and, although they have created a wish list of five sites, so far none are proving viable.

The top pick: Greeley, a 12-acre site in North Portland pinched between railroad tracks and sandstone bluffs. Unlike their current remote location, the Greeley site is zoned residential and is accessible to public transportation. But Union Pacific, the current owners, decided not to sell the land to Dignity for fear of the villagers would ride the rails. In addition, a geologist examined the sight and determined that the bluff could come down with heavy rains.

Of the four remaining sites on Dignity Village's list, two are on public land and two are on private property. All are zoned "industrial," or at least face serious restrictions for residing on the property. To change an industrial-zoned plot of land is tricky; the City charges a $22,000 fee just to challenge the zoning. Furthermore, a "tent city" complicates matters because no code or municipal rules currently exist for such arrangements; but the other "tent cities" on the West Coast do offer guidance for Portland's politicians.

Seattle's tent city, Tent City III, has moved 22 times in the past 24 months. They are currently on a church parking lot with a temporary use permit. Paradise/SCSC, a tent city in Santa Cruz, is also on church property with a long-term agreement.

With a July 1 deadline right around the corner, Dignity Village continues to strive for a solution. But, according to spokespersons for Dignity Village, it is likely they will contact the City and request an extension at the current industrial-zoned Sunderland Site. DAMON CLARK

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