PORTLAND, Ore. — People in three neighborhoods learned on Thursday that they’ll soon play a direct role in ushering in a new phase of Portland’s mounting housing crisis: the opening of organized, sanctioned camps to be stationed throughout the city.
After months of buildup, staff with Housing Commissioner Dan Ryan’s office released the long-awaited locations of three of their six planned camps, to be called “Safe Rest Villages”. The locations are:
- A city-owned lot on the 2300 block of SW Naito Parkway, along the west side of Naito (downtown Portland)
- A city-owned lot at 8330 SE 45th Avenue, along the east side of 45th at SE Harney Street (the Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood)
- A Trimet-owned lot, known as the “Menlo Park & Ride”, on the southeast corner of SE 122nd Avenue and East Burnside Street (the Hazelwood Neighborhood)
RELATED: Amid mounting housing crisis, Portland officials won't release Safe Rest Village locations this week, as planned
"We recognize the important opportunity we have here. Let the city transform part of an underused park and ride into a safe haven," said TriMet general manager Sam Desue. The park and ride will still be accessible to the public, only a portion of it is being used for the Safe Rest Village.
Staff released a map, showing the locations of the sites, as well as those of existing shelters in Portland.
Commissioner Ryan, who announced the locations at a press conference Thursday afternoon has promised to have six Safe Rest Villages up and running in Portland by 2022. Staff have said they’ll announce the locations of the other villages as soon as possible.
"The plan is to keep them open for at least three years," said Commissioner Ryan.
Housing Commissioner Dan Ryan first described the plan back in June, adding the city would pay for it with $20 million in federal COVID aid. In an interview earlier this month, the commissioner said his office has hired four staffers to help run the villages.
“We have a great team in place all within two months, and I think that [Portlanders] will hopefully remain supportive and helpful as we do some really tough work to get these [villages] up and running by the end of the calendar year,” Commissioner Ryan said then.
Earlier this summer, staff said they were evaluating possible sites, looking at a list of roughly 70 city-owned sites. They later said they’ve expanded that search. This week, Metro officials confirmed the Portland Expo Center, which was not on the city's original list of potential sites, is now being considered.
“We are looking at all public lands (subject to zoning stipulations – Open Spaced zoned sites are not eligible for outdoor shelters), so that includes Metro, TriMet, ODOT and so forth,” wrote Project Communications Liaison Bryan Aptekar earlier this month. “We are also looking at private properties we might lease or purchase.”
Aptekar added, one of the sites they plan to announce soon will house people living in their cars and RVs. When it comes to the others, he noted, “We have pods ready to drop in place at some of the sites as soon as the locations are confirmed.”
As of Thursday afternoon, officials had not given specific opening dates for the three locations they released.
While Portlanders wait for details, the optics of the city's housing crisis indicates more people than ever are living unsheltered on our streets. The last official count, conducted in 2019, showed 2,037 were living on the streets.