But on Monday evening, a local philanthropist stepped forward and offered a unique solution: He would personally pay for the leaves to be composted elsewhere if the City agreed to let Dignity Village stay put for six more months. Leland "Lee" Larson, who made his fortune from a fleet of school buses, pledged $20,000 to move the composting operation.
The last-minute reprieve ended yet another nail-biting chapter for Dignity Village. Just one week ago, options for alternative sites were dimming. With days remaining before the deadline scooted them out of their current location, the 65 homeless had scrambled for alternate sites. They had found three private lots around the city, but wanted full neighborhood approval before staking their tents.
The favorite site was located near SE 31st and Powell--sandwiched between a strip club and a decrepit lawn known as "needle park." At a meet-and-greet with neighbors last Tuesday evening, the homeless faced out-and-out hostility. One young woman stood up in favor of Dignity Village; She explained that she lived next door and believed that the homeless could help patrol the neighborhood's drug trade. But when she said that she was a renter--and not a homeowner--the crowd shouted her down. She left the meeting in tears.
Under the new agreement, Dignity Village will be afforded a six-month stay at their current site near PDX Airport. John Hubbard, who works with Dignity Village as a site coordinator, explained they will take the extra time to search for a permanent site. This time, he said, they will do more "advance work" like public relations campaigns with potential neighbors.
"We'll make sure that we have all our ducks lined up, instead of forcing it down the neighbor's throats," he promised.