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Hillsboro builds outdoor homeless village for transitional housing

The village will be low barrier, meaning drugs and alcohol aren't allowed on the premises, but people don't have to be sober to enter.

HILLSBORO, Ore. — A large, empty field off Tualatin Valley Highway and Southwest 17th Avenue will soon be a refuge for homeless people in Hillsboro. The city is in the process of building its first tiny-home pod village at a time when there are no other available shelter beds there. They plan to open the village in October.

“We know our unsheltered community members are really struggling to meet their basic needs,” said Mandy Gawf, the city’s community services coordinator.

The city just bought the land and there will soon be 30 pods for 40 people and services to connect the villagers with case managers.

“So right now, if someone was seeking shelter in Hillsboro tonight, we would not have a referral or a resource for them,” said Gawf.

RELATED: Downtown Vancouver site being considered for a third homeless village

Since winter shelters have closed in the Hillsboro area, they have provided the means for some homeless people to stay in motels, but there is a long waitlist for those rooms.

“Hillsboro in general it seems like they do have quite a population of homeless people that migrate to different areas,” one resident told KGW.

“It's rough. It’s not easy,” said Ricky Bartholomew, who’s been homeless for 20 years. “I'm learning how to survive all the time. Every day's a new day.”

He hopes to get a spot in the village once it opens.

“A place to stay, a place to keep my things, shower, keep up with my hygiene and all that stuff would be a lot better.”

The village will be low barrier, meaning drugs and alcohol aren't allowed on the premises, but people don't have to be sober to enter.

RELATED: New tiny-home village in NE Portland offers low-barrier housing for homeless people

“The drug rehab disturbs me because it might be more disturbing — for my safety,” another resident, dubious about the project, told KGW. "I don't know. We'll just see what they end up doing."

“We hear a lot of concern from our community about the homelessness crisis here in Hillsboro and across Washington County and the first and best option to help is creating that place where people can go,” explained Jes Larson, the county’s supportive housing services program manager.

The village will be paid for using taxpayer money. It's part of a voter-approved supportive housing services measure which was passed by Metro in 2020. The village will cost the county $85 per pod a day. 

“This measure will help us reach our goal of adding 250 shelter beds to our Washington county system of care,” said Larson.

The site will begin as a temporary shelter that will run through March. Then the city plans to build a permanent shelter in it's place. They plan to find a new location for the village when that time comes.

RELATED: Regional housing effort gets more than 1,600 people off the streets and into housing

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