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City’s “Safe Rest Villages” Off to a Slow Start

Only three of the six locations are set to be announced by the end of the month.

Information about the status of six “safe rest villages” the city hopes to set up to offer at least 300 alternative shelter spaces for homeless Portlanders has been coming at a trickle since the spring, when city leaders unanimously approved the idea.

On Thursday, Commissioner Dan Ryan’s office sent out its monthly newsletter. It reported that three of the six locations for the promised villages would be announced by the end of the month.

Throughout the project, Ryan’s office has shared its goal to have all six villages operational by the end of the year. That’s not likely to happen at the current pace.

One of the promised locations will be a safe parking site for people who live in their cars, while the other five will feature small structures, Ryan’s office said. The Joint Office of Homeless Services is tasked with finding contractors to help run the villages and provide behavioral and mental health services.

The sites will all feature amenities like bathrooms, kitchens, common spaces and a laundry.

The pace at which sites are being selected is at the center of advocacy by People for Portland, a secretive group of political donors agitating Ryan and other elected officials to swiftly move homeless people to safe rest sites. The group’s presentation to donors says it is considering legal action and ballot measures to increase the speed of civic action.

It seems other city commissioners know as little as the public does. In a Wednesday interview with WW, Commissioner Mingus Mapps said: “I think we’re making good progress on this. [Dan Ryan] assures me we’ll get some of them set up by the end of the year.”

“I know we’ve hired staff to help with standing the villages up, I know we’ve found contractors from the nonprofit world who will help manage these camps, and I know Ryan’s office is in the process of evaluating possible locations,” added Mapps, who said he did not know the city’s timeline for announcing the locations.

Many unanswered questions loom about the sites, including who will get to use them, how the city will reach out to offer spaces at the sites, and whether residents will have to meet any requirements.