PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Homeless pods on wheels have been popping up around Portland.
You may have already started to see these structures around town. They are roughly 6×8 foot pods that have wheels — but are reportedly heavy and hard to move.
Neighbors in the area say they see people show up on their streets, build them quickly and then take off, not saying who they are.
“Popping up just about anywhere and everywhere over the last month without really any description of who is creating them,” said Larry Smith, a homeowner in Southeast Portland.
While neighbors are confused, KOIN 6 went out in search of answers. Reporter Elise Haas stopped by a pod next to Kern Park. She found Nancy and Jim sitting inside. They preferred to keep their last names off the record. They say their families don’t know they’re living like this.
“I’m not trying to do anything to hurt anybody or make anybody’s life hard or make their home look filthy,” Nancy said. “We just don’t have anywhere to go.”
They told KOIN 6 a man is building these tiny structures on his own and that he has a website and phone number. But they don’t give out his information. They said he prefabricates the structure elsewhere, then quickly builds it on site for people living on the streets.
“You get more privacy and it’s kind of like a step closer to being in a real place,” Nancy said.
Homeowners nearby said they understand the motivation behind the mobile huts — but stress they don’t fix the deeper issues.
“The problem is a lot of these people need a physical space to occupy. I mean, you can’t get a job if you can’t put an address on an application,” Homeowner Chris Engbretson said. “You want someone to have a safe space to occupy, but I’m assuming it’s still not an address, so it’s not necessarily a solution to the problem.”
While some people living in the pods are friendly and neighborly, homeowners say others are not. Larry Smith said a woman came out of a pod screaming at him while passing by near Southeast 80th and Bush as he was out for a walk.
Engbretson said there used to be another pod next to Nancy’s, which he says the city already removed.
“One of our neighbors [has] photos looking in because the structures have windows, have drug paraphernalia straight up inside the structure, just like tinfoil drug paraphernalia. So, these are people that are really in need of a lot of help,” Engbretson added.
Smith said this is a difficult problem.
“But my thought is that the public officials are not doing enough at this point to actually help the people that are living in these units and get them to a safer place and out of the public right of way,” Smith added.
City officials say they are aware of an effort to build structures on wheels for homeless people, but they don’t have any further details. However, the City of Portland says they’re treating them like they treat other tents and structures, and if they’re reported, they will conduct an assessment.
If any of the pods are a high health and safety risk, officials say they may be posted for removal.