PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland city leaders announced four additional sites for Safe Rest Villages during a press conference Thursday afternoon.
The Safe Rest Village sites are proposed areas homeless people can stay with access to showers, bathrooms and mental health care.
Commissioner Dan Ryan spoke and was joined by other guests, including Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal and Stan Penkin, chair of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association.
KOIN 6 News livestreamed the event, which can be viewed in full in the video player below.
“We are facing a humanitarian crisis on our streets,” Ryan said during the press conference. “We are facing a housing crisis. We are facing an unprecedented drug crisis. Together, they have knocked us on our knees.”
Ryan described the sites as an “on-ramp” to housing, designed to be a “first step off the streets toward restoration and stability.”
“They are not the only thing that’s needed, but they are an important part and we cannot afford to wait,” he said.
The four new sites announced are:
- Peninsula Crossing Village in North Portland
- Sunderland North Village in Northeast Portland
- Northwest Naito Village in NW Portland
- Southeast Reedway Village in SE Portland
He said the villages will have amenities, on-site social workers and mental and behavioral health services. The exact amenities that will be available at each site is unclear.
Peninsula Crossing Village will be located near the Peninsula Crossing Trail in North Portland. Officials said there has been “significant” unsanctioned camping along the trail in the past.
Sunderland North Village will be located along NE Sunderland Avenue near the Portland International Airport in NE Portland. The property is owned by the Portland Bureau of Transportation and will be the first “Safe Park Village,” Ryan said.
This announcement came as a surprise to people next door.
“It’s somebody calling us two hours before they’re going to release this to the general public and we’ve never heard a word about before now. Never any buy-in or communication from them,” Ryan Throop said.
“We are doing our best to act with urgency and now that it’s on the table, we will engage in a lot of dialogue. We hear from some of the same neighbors, especially at these sites, that they really wanted us to do something,” Dan Ryan said.
One of those residents, who’s been asking leaders to do something about this sprawling homelessness, was thrilled by the news.
“Wonderful job, we need to be grateful, it’s not a day to be negative, it’s a day to celebrate that some of our neighbors are going to get housed,” resident Maryhelen Kincaid said.
Over the past few months, the city has been scouting locations to set up the Safe Rest Villages. Ryan has spearheaded the program, and announced an additional three locations in September. However, the city abandoned plans for one of the locations after residents said there was flooding risk.
In total, there have now been six Safe Rest Village sites announced.
“We want to make sure that they were in areas where neighbors are experiencing a high degree of unsanctioned camping,” Ryan said in September, adding he wants these sites to improve conditions people are seeing in their neighborhoods.
In October, neighbors told KOIN 6 News they are worried these sites will attract more homeless to their neighborhoods looking for resources.
According to Denis Theriault with the Joint Office of Homeless Services, someone must be referred from a service provider or emergency responder in order to get a bed at a Safe Rest Village.