PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The city of Hillsboro’s safe rest pods were always meant to be temporary, and after staying for longer than the city initially intended, they’ll soon be moved to a new location in Cornelius.
The 30 pods can house up to 40 people, but at their current location at the corner of Southwest 17th Avenue and Tualatin Valley Highway, they don’t have a way to connect to electricity. That means fans and air conditioning units can’t be used in them during the hot summer.
At the new location, they’ll be able to connect to power, allowing residents to live comfortably in the heat.
“The original plan was to end around this time knowing that temperatures are going to get really hot… so that is the main reason for their move at this point to a site where they can be electrified with heating and cooling,” said Mandy Gawf, community services coordinator with the city of Hillsboro.
After the pods first opened in October, the plan was to keep them up until March. Since the site was still available, the city of Hillsboro kept them up longer.
Their last day at the 17th Avenue location is June 30.
Washington County’s Director for the Department of Housing Services Jes Larson said she expects the pods will open at 397 N. 4th Ave. in Cornelius sometime in August.
Since they opened, the safe rest pods have remained relatively full. When the pods are moved, the people living in them will need to find new homes.
“We are committed to making sure no one loses shelter because of the transition of the locations. So, we will be looking, always, to housing as the first best plan. There’s other shelter capacity across the county that’s open throughout the summer,” Larson said.
She said the county will also partner with motels to provide people with shelter in the interim. Caseworkers are working with everyone who currently lives in the safe rest pods to help ensure they have a plan for shelter.
Ideally, the goal is to get as many people into permanent housing as they can.
Hillsboro had hoped to open a permanent shelter at the 17th Avenue and Tualatin Valley Highway site by the end of 2023, but the timing isn’t going as planned. Gawf said the city is still in the design phase and the shelter won’t be built until after the end of the year. There’s still not a clear timeline.
When it is built, Gawf said the city would like for the shelter to have both individual pods and a village-style model. She said there will be buildings for indoor shelter and laundry facilities.
The Cornelius site will be another temporary location for the safe rest pods. The ultimate plan is for Washington County to build an access center at the site which will provide meals, connections to services, and a place homeless people can store their belongings and take showers.
These access centers will also serve as shelters during inclement weather.
Larson said the plan is for Washington County to build four of these access centers around the county.
The county has already begun conversations with neighbors about the temporary pod shelter that will be moving in. Larson said they’ve heard different feedback, some support it and others are concerned.
“We work hard to get out as much information as we can quickly, share the components of the programming around 24-hour staffing, security, even details like a fence and parking for staff,” Larson said.
There are community meetings planned with neighbors in Cornelius on June 28 and July 11. Larson said the county has been passing out flyers and encouraging people to participate.
Both Larson and Gawf said when the safe rest pods are erected in Cornelius, residents will still have access to resources like they do in Hillsboro. They’ll also still be able to take public transportation. The TriMet 57 bus line runs past both the Cornelius site and the site in Hillsboro the pods are vacating.
Larson said the plan has always been to move the safe rest pods to several sites over time.