The 60 homeless residents of Dignity Village, who spent the winter shivering in the windswept Sunderland Yard leaf-composting site, are eyeing a new location for a permanent home.
Strung along the Union Pacific railroad tracks in North Portland, the 12-acre parcel sits between Greeley Avenue and Overlook Park, but is separated from the park and the surrounding neighborhood by a steep cliff.
With access to public transportation, utility hookups, proximity to downtown and separation from the manicured lawns of Overlook, the Greeley site is Dignity Village's favorite prospective location. There's only one problem--its owner, Union Pacific Railroad, doesn't want to sell.
Dignity Village approached Union Pacific last month to explore the possibility of buying the parcel. Although the land was on the market with a price listed between $300,000 and $500,000, the railroad backed away, citing "safety concerns."
"We have since taken it off the market entirely," says John Bromley of Union Pacific.
Though other potential sites are still available, Dignity Village has asked the City of Portland to step in and help them negotiate with Union Pacific. "We hope the mayor will bring her influence to bear on the railroad company," says Jack Tafari, vice president and resident of Dignity.
According to Marshall Runkel, an aide to city commissioner Erik Sten, the city has yet to respond to the request.
The peripatetic Village, which has been driven from one temporary site to another since its formation in October 2000, must abandon its current location by July 1.
Tafari remains hopeful that the community can find a permanent home. "We have been swept out like damn leaves to a composting site," he says. "It has been a brutal, rainy winter."