Portland leaders announced the future locations of four Safe Rest Village sites Thursday, moving one step closer to finalizing where all six outdoor villages will be situated.
“Safe Rest Villages will be a first step off the streets towards restoration and stability,” said City Commissioner Dan Ryan, who is leading the Safe Rest Village plan, at a press conference. “They’re not the only thing that's needed, but they are an important part and we cannot afford to wait. We cannot keep talking about the perfect solution and let it get in the way of good action.”
The Safe Rest Villages, as defined by the city, “will be outdoor shelters—not tents—that provide a place for Portlanders to sleep, basic and necessary hygiene, and access to case management and behavioral health services.” Each village, all but one of which are located on public land, will have a maximum of 60 sleeping pods and be managed by local social service providers selected by Portland and Multnomah County’s Joint Office of Homeless Services.
The new site locations are in the Sunderland, Lents, Pearl District, and University Park neighborhoods. Safe Rest Village sites were announced in the Hazelwood neighborhood and former Sears Armory site in Southwest Portland last year. Cultivate Initiatives and All Good, two social service nonprofits, have been selected to manage the Hazelwood and Sears Armory villages.
According to Ryan, the managed sites will aim to act as a stepping stone into permanent housing by providing a “restorative” environment where unhoused Portlanders can connect with whatever resources they need to “get to whatever is next in their lives.” The city expects each villager to stay at the site for six to nine months before transitioning to a new housing environment. The sites will be funded for three years through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money, meaning the villages could serve about one thousand Portlanders.
While one thousand people is just a portion of Portland’s unhoused population, Ryan said that the Safe Rest Village model is a creative response to Oregon’s homeless and behavioral health crises. Oregon is one of the worst states in the country at providing mental health services to its population.
“We're using this as a chance to innovate and to help the whole state and the community to move forward in terms of moving out of the last place when it comes to those services and also getting the city out of the ditch that it’s currently in,” Ryan said. “In other words, you might say it's a drop in the bucket, but it's a pretty big drop.”
The Safe Rest Villages were originally intended to be operational by the end of 2021. Ryan attributed the delays to internal red tape associated with the process of using the federal ARPA funding, as well as pushback from neighbors of proposed site locations who did not want unhoused people living near them. According to Ryan, these new site locations are places where unhoused people are already camping.
Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, who oversees part of North Portland where two Safe Rest Villages will be located, said that her constituents came to her with a proposal to create a managed camp in the Sunderland neighborhood in response to the area’s growing houseless population.
“The two [villages] in my district are both in areas where we've seen a long standing and growing presence of people living unsheltered in tents and vehicles,” Jayapal said. “Siting these villages where people already are will provide more humane conditions for them, and a pathway to services and housing.”
Maryhelen Kincaid, a member of the Sutherland neighborhood who approached Jayapal with the plan, said that the creation of a managed camp in the neighborhood was a cause for celebration.
“It's not a day to be negative,” Kincaid said. “It's a day to celebrate that some of our neighbors are going to get housed.”
The announcement of the four Safe Rest Villages was also made possible by an executive order signed by Mayor Ted Wheeler Wednesday. The order ultimately cleared some internal zoning and bureaucratic hurdles, allowing the new site locations to be announced Thursday.
Wheeler’s office recently proposed creating mass, one thousand-person camps for unhoused Portlanders that would be staffed by the National Guard. After receiving backlash from local leaders, homeless service providers, and members of the public, Wheeler proposed creating smaller, city-sanctioned camps that would serve more people than preexisting tiny home-style villages run by the city. Ryan’s office has stressed that Wheeler’s proposed outdoor camps are not affiliated with the Safe Rest Village program.
Ryan’s office still needs to secure permits for the sites and contractors to build the villages, but plans to open all six villages some time this year.
Here are the locations of all six future Safe Rest Villages:
Menlo Park: SE 122nd and Burnside
SE Reedway Village: 106th Block SE Reedway Street
Sears Armory Village: 2731 SW Multnomah Boulevard
NW Naito Village: NW Naito Parkway near the Broadway bridge
Peninsula Crossing Village: 6631 N Syracuse Street
Sunderland North Village: 9827 NE Sunderland Avenue