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Sleeping pod village for houseless women opens in North Portland
Author: Karen O'Donnell Stein
Posted: June 8, 2017

A new village community of micro dwellings opens this weekend, to become the new home for 14 formerly houseless women in the North Portland neighborhood of Kenton. Designed by PSU Architecture students, the new village has been created through a partnership of local government, nonprofit, and educational institutions: Catholic Charities, City of Portland, the Joint Office of Homeless Services, the Village Coalition, Prosper Portland, Almar Contracting, and Portland State University School of Architecture’s Center for Public Interest Design.

A year-long pilot project, the village model offers a new potential approach for addressing houselessness at a small scale, which could be adapted and implemented in communities across the country struggling to meet housing needs. 

The village is made up of 14 sleeping pods (not larger than 8 by 12 feet), designed and built in late 2016 as part of the POD (Partners on Dwelling) Initiative, which brought together a citywide coalition of architects, housing advocates, and houseless individuals from the Hazelnut Grove village, led by faculty and students in PSU’s Center for Public Interest Design, as part of the Village Coalition.

The challenge was to design and construct small dwellings to explore the sleeping pod as a new, versatile way of addressing the current housing crisis in Portland and many cities around the country. The results of this challenge were put on display in December 2016, with the support of Portland officials, who helped provide funding for the construction of the pods and helped secure the Kenton site to become a real village. In March, 2017, residents of Kenton voted overwhelmingly to welcome the community to their neighborhood.

A fully operational kitchen and shower facilities, installed in customized shipping containers, have been added to the site, with water delivery and garbage service being provided. A community garden is planned, so that residents and neighbors can collaborate and interact as the women make the village their home. 

The village site is designed by students and faculty in the PSU School of Architecture and Center for Public Interest Design, and the transformation of the site from an empty lot to a well-designed, welcoming living space has been made possible by PSU students, volunteers from the Kenton neighborhood, members of the POD Initiative, and others. 

The residents of the Kenton Women’s Village are drawn largely from the Kenton and North Portland areas. The 14 formerly houseless women will receive access to services such as regular meetings with a case worker, employment assistance, access to legal and financial services, mental and physical health care, and support creating and implementing a personalized plan to transition to permanent housing by the time they leave the village. The residents range in age from 20s to 60s and have been screened through Catholic Charities.

A village manager, employed by Catholic Charities, is responsible for handling emergencies, helping to connect the women with case workers and other services, accepting donations and organizing assistance from community members, and helping the women to create a functional decision-making process for village rules such as cooking and cleaning schedules and other community issues. 

The village site is owned by the Proper Portland (formerly the Portland Development Commission), which has granted use of the land to the village for one year. The Joint Office of Homeless Services, a partnership between Portland and Multnomah County, is funding Catholic Charities' contract.

The residents will move in to their new homes this weekend, after which the site will be closed to the public.

Members of the media are invited to attend an open house Friday, June 9, at 10am, with remarks at 10:15am from officials from Catholic Charities, the City of Portland, the Villiage Coalition, the Kenton Neighborhood Association, and PSU Center for Public Interest Design.

A donation drive will be held at the Kenton Women’s Village also on Friday, June 9, from 10am to 12 noon, to collect supplies and needed items, such as sheets, towels, first-aid kits, flashlights, and more. The list of requested items can be viewed here. Community members wishing to donate can drop off the items Friday morning, or contact Kirsten Goetz at kgoetz@ccoregon.org.

A public open house will be held Friday, June 9, from 4pm to 6pm, at the village location, at the corner of Argyle Way and N. Hunt Street, just north of Kenton Park, in North Portland.