‘Not tents’: Ryan continues to make case for Safe Rest Village sites

Multnomah County

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan made his case to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners for his Safe Rest Village sites on Thursday morning.

Dozens of potential sites are being scouted across Portland — but the city has only decided on two locations so far: one on Naito Parkway and the other on Southeast 122nd and Burnside.

“The Safe Rest Villages will be outdoor shelters — not tents,” Ryan explained. “At meetings when I’m in the community lately, I want to keep repeating ‘not tents’ many times. The Safe Rest Villages are about public health, environmental health and community safety.”

The city will fund these projects using $16.8 million from the federal American Rescue Plan to run these programs for 3 years.

Commissioner Ryan stressed the need to be nimble and quick to use federal relief so they will be announcing the 4 additional safe rest village sites soon.

Costs for each site varies depending on the utilities and infrastructure in place and available but ranges from $350,000 to $500,000 to set up a site with amenities, like bathrooms and community kitchens.

Housing pods/units also vary widely. Wooden tiny houses are an estimated $2,000, while pallet shelters range from $5,000 to $6,000, and high tech/fire resistant pods reach $15,000 a unit.

Developers estimate that these shelters will the cost $1.5 million a year to run and maintain each site. With these price points, other county commissioners question why each village will house up to 60 pods, when there’s an estimated 5,000 homeless.

“We’re creating best practices, throughout the west coast on this – there are some that want them to be really really large. There are some that want them to be no more than ten. I think, as we always do as leaders, we try and hit that sweet spot if you will – where we meet on the edge of economy of scale, meets trauma-informed, that have practices that give us the results that we want,” Ryan said.

During a Portland City Council Meeting on Wednesday night, a coalition of eastside businesses asked commissioners for a solution that keeps unregulated camps away from their stores.

“I’m not here to villainize the camps around our business,” Salt & Straw Co-founder Kim Malek said. “I respect them, I’m here to discuss how we can support them, while also creating an environment that’s safe for everyone.”

A Safe Rest site planned for Southeast 45th Avenue was scrapped after Ryan confirmed it was located on a flood plain.

KOIN 6 confirmed the city is now researching a possible Safe Rest Village site along NE 42nd near Killingsworth, in a green space just south of the track and Fernhill Park.

“It is PPS property, not Portland Parks & Recreation property, which is why we have been speaking directly to PPS leadership, as part of our due diligence, just as we have with property owners at various locations around the city about use of their land,” wrote Bryan Aptekar, with Commissioner Dan Ryan’s Office. “We have no request for or anticipated use of the rest of that large site. It would likely remain in use as it is now – a school district field next to a park for informal pick up ball games, and other recreational purposes.”

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