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‘We feel miserable’: Safe Rest Village built 10 feet away from North Portland man’s home

The Safe Rest Villages are different from the mayor's Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites; the first of which is set to open this summer.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Construction is underway for the city’s latest Safe Rest Village, a temporary tiny pod village for homeless people. 

The new village will be in North Portland off the Peninsula Crossing Trail in the St. Johns Neighborhood. 

“We feel miserable, we had a completely different vision for our old age to live in peace,” said George Siebert, who lives in a yellow house adjacent to the construction site.

For the last 40 years, Siebert and his wife have lived in their North Portland home.

“It's a modest house but we take pride in it,” he said. Siebert added it’s a pride that’s now weakening as the temporary village for homeless people goes up ten feet away from their living room window. 

City code requires a 5-foot setback from residential property lines. The village’s restroom will be what’s next to Siebert’s home. To offer privacy, the city is installing a 7-foot-tall fence to shield the village from homeowners. 

Siebert said there has been little communication from the city. 

“I wrote Mayor Wheeler a letter on March 3 and I never got any response,” he said.

The spokesperson for the city's Safe Rest Village team said they were out talking with neighbors on Monday and said in an email to KGW: “Regarding the neighbor’s statement that city staff has ignored them, that is simply not true. Just yesterday (3.27.23), our staff was at their door listening to their concerns and discussing the plans for this site with these specific neighbors, among other nearby property owners. Our staff was on site a week ago as well, and spoke with these same neighbors, to hear their concerns.”

Map of where the Safe Rest Village is being constructed in North Portland

Some neighbors say it's still not enough. 

“Our voices have fallen on deaf ears,” said another neighbor who didn’t want to be identified and doesn't see the Safe Rest Village project as a long-term solution. 

The city opened two Safe Rest Villages last year: One in Multnomah Village and another at the Menlo Park and Ride in East Portland. The plan is to have six locations around the city.

The city has yet to announce who will operate the village in North Portland, which is slated to have 60 sleeping units and case management services. Once they do, the city said that organization will be in touch with neighbors.

“We would hope that it would be a good situation for people that need it but right now with no supervision or management team I don't think it's possible,” said the anonymous neighbor.

On the other side of the fence to the Safe Rest Village is a large homeless encampment which was posted for removal earlier this month. KGW talked with some of the homeless people there who said they would love a spot in that Safe Rest Village, yet the city said they can't guarantee that.

City outreach crews said they have offered them other shelter services, yet many don't take them up on it for various reasons including certain rules and that many don’t feel comfortable in congregate settings.

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