PORTLAND, Ore. – Amber Murphy said she does not know where she would be without the Kenton Women’s Village. Before moving in last February, she struggled with homelessness for six years. The village of 14 pods in the Kenton Neighborhood is the only reason she said she is no longer living on the streets.
“Oh gosh, to live here, they saved me,” explained Amber Murphy as she showed off her pod she now calls home.
Murphy decorated her space with art she made and poster boards she wrote affirming quotes on. Murphy thinks she is the third or fourth woman to live in this particular pod. Staff said 14 women have already come and gone from the village and now live in permanent housing.
Kenton Women’s Village was approved by a neighborhood vote a little more than a year ago. Wednesday, the future of the Kenton Women’s Village will be voted on once again by the Kenton Neighborhood Association. With the success of the program though, many think there is no question the program will continue.
“I'd say it would be quite shocking if it weren't a yes vote,” explained Kenton Neighborhood Association Chair Tyler Roppe.
Neighbors who live nearby are also in favor of the village.
“It's an awesome idea, we need them all over Portland, I mean the housing crisis is silly, it's out of hand and things like this are making a difference,” said Schel Harris who lives directly across from the village.
Staff said this model is working because it not only provides women with a stable, safe place to live, it also connects them with much needed services. Fourteen women are now getting weekly mental health care. Another woman participated in a substance abuse treatment program and is now clean and sober, living in permanent housing. Others who reported a history of domestic violence in their past have been connected with legal services and trauma recovery groups.
“It's been really helpful to have people be in one place and feel safe, to be able to move forward with their lives,” explained Margie Dechenne the Program Manager for the Housing Transitions Program through Catholic Charities.
The health care component made all the difference for Murphy. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which up until recently she did not even know what that was.
“I never thought that I could have a normal life,” Murphy said.
Murphy said the women who live in the village form a tight sister-like bond. She said they all work together to cook meals, maintain a community garden, and look out for each other. It has given her a sense of community she has not had in a very long time. In fact, she does not know where she would be without it.
“I know what it means to me and I know what it means to the ladies that are here right now, it's like, I have a door, I have a place, I wake up in the middle of the night not knowing where I am and then I'm like oh yeah, I'm safe,” Murphy said.
Neighbors are encouraged to attend Wednesday night’s vote on the future of the program. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 12, 2018 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Disjecta, which is located at 8371 N Interstate Avenue in Portland.
There is also a survey online if you want to give input about the village: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/H38FJ87
So far, the neighborhood association said the majority of the feedback has been positive.
“I'm incredibly grateful to the neighborhood for how they have welcomed the women and also to take a chance,” Dechenne said. “They’re the first neighborhood that I know of that has done that.”