Villages: a grassroots innovation to address homelessness

The idea that tiny home villages could be part of the solution for homelessness sprang up from those who understood the issue first hand - those experiencing it. 

A group of residents built their own tiny shelters and formed Portland’s first tiny home (or pod) community: Dignity Village.

Center co-founders Todd Ferry and Sergio Palleroni, architects in Portland State University’s Center for Public Interest Design (CPID), saw the value in building upon this grassroots effort. They helped secure city support and funding for the Kenton Women's Village, Portland’s first city-sanctioned village. They also helped design and build the village while coordinating efforts by the larger design community and housing advocates. Since then the CPID has contributed to the creation of the Clackamas Veteran’s Village and Agape Village

Our center continues to support village efforts around the Portland area, including one of the newest proposals, an AfroVillage that will be made, organized, and managed by its residents - black women in transition from homelessness or returning from incarceration.

The village model has helped scores of people find stability and even transition to permanent housing. The next step is to better understand how villages work and for whom. The center is studying the model to develop a best practices guide informed by rigorous research.

It’s not the silver bullet solution to homelessness," Ferry said, “but what it is extremely good at is providing a safe and dignified place to heal and build community while in transition to permanent housing.



Design solution keeps research going amid pandemic

In-person research paused this spring due to COVID-19, but Center Designer Marta Petteni created a solution to resume research this fall.

She designed a social-distancing engagement station for interviews. Researchers are using it to begin interviews as part of a new study to evaluate the village model.

Jewell shares her story

Jewell, a resident of Kenton Women's Village, shares her story of finding stable housing after more than seven years of homelessness. The PSU graduate said it all started at Kenton Women's Village.

"I was in seventh heaven," she said. "It was my own little place."

New village on the block: AfroVillage PDX

Community organizer Laquida Landford is working on her vision for Portland’s newest tiny home village.

AfroVillage will be made, organized, and managed by its residents - black women in transition from homelessness or returning from incarceration.

Black residents are twice as likely to experience homelessness in Multnomah County, and AfroVillage PDX will be the first village to focus on the Black community.


Center receives grant to study village model & develop guide

Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative will soon evaluate the village model and develop a “how-to-guide” for future villages thanks to a $184,800 grant from Meyer Memorial Trust.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to rigorously analyze villages to understand their impact,” said co-founder Todd Ferry.

Clackamas Veterans Village

Clackamas County Veterans Village is a transitional shelter community for veterans. It was a collaboration between Clackamas County, Catholic Charities, Communitecture, City Repair, the Village Coalition, Lease Crutcher Lewis, Portland State University, the City of Portland, Multnomah County, and more.