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New Safe Rest Village gets applause, criticism

Another Safe Rest Village is almost set to open. The city held an open house for the North Portland site on Thursday, but not all the neighbors are celebrating.

PORTLAND, Ore. — On Thursday, neighbors and local media got a look at Peninsula Crossing Trail Safe Rest Village in North Portland. It is nearly complete, with 60 tiny homes set up with dressers and beds.

The tiny homes are strategically placed along pathways of fresh cedar chips. They can hold up to two people, although most will be set up for singles.

And now neighbors are getting to see the future of what was a field with a walking trail running through it, right behind homes in the St. Johns neighborhood. The area became a haven for homeless campers before construction began, and plenty of that continues not far from this sanctioned site.

Gary Horton said concerns over the village have been made worse by the city doing little to reach out to homeowners.

“And that was the wrong thing I think because I think we had no input on this thing; none, zero,” said Horton, who lives a block away from the sanctioned village.

San Francisco-based Urban Alchemy will run the site, with 24/7 security and support for those transitioning out of homelessness. It is hiring local people to fill out the staff, including those who have come out of homelessness themselves.

“We really want to give people the opportunity to choose the space where they want to be,” said Kirkpatrick Tyler.

The nonprofit's chief of government and urban affairs says they've had lots of success lifting people out of homelessness in several communities, and that it starts with providing a safe place to live.

“You don't have to worry about someone coming and stealing your stuff. You don't have to worry about someone coming to victimize you ... That they're able to get a good night's sleep, that they're able to have folks around them that love on them and support them and connect them to resources to help figure out what is the next pathway for their lives,” said Tyler.  

Credit: Tim Gordon, KGW

The formal greeting for the gathering came from City Commissioner Dan Ryan, who oversees the Safe Rest Village program.

“This is a community, and it will allow people to be connected to one another: lots of case managers, mental health and behavioral health therapists that to get to know people by name. So truly, this is about hope. And this is about healing,” said Ryan.

But some neighbors listened with arms folded. Concerns came from George Seibold, whose home of 40 years is closest to the village, with its bathroom and kitchen facilities just feet from his living room window.

“Can you explain with all the acreage here, why the toilet has to be here and not there,” asked Seibold, motioning to the other side of the property.

The city's explanation is that access to utilities requires the bathrooms and communal kitchen be in that spot, and that it should be quieter than the living areas. So, while this may not be perfect for all, some neighbors do hope that campers already in their area will get a home here.

“If they're going to help them out and get those people in here, that's awesome. I think it's really great, I’d like to see the people in here so they can get off the streets,” said Horton.

Program managers with the city are not yet saying exactly when the new village will open, other than to say there's a lot of work to do in the next few weeks, and then it will open to residents some time after that.

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