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Siting Process and Siting Criteria for Safe Rest Villages


This page was originally published Wednesday 9.15.21; updated Tuesday 11.16.21


Below is a link to a now dated, preliminary (July 2021) inventory of city-owned properties that bureaus identified earlier this year as potential sites for Safe Rest Villages. At the time that inventory list was shared, our search for sites had just begunthis was a list of city-owned sites that city bureaus offered for consideration at that time. These properties had not been measured against project siting criteria, nor had other public or private properties been considered.Most of these locations do not meet our siting criteria and are no longer under consideration. 

Download Excel file List of City-Owned Properties for Potential Safe Rest Villages (29.85 Kb)

Since July 2021, most of the sites on that list have been ruled out. The community shared significant feedback about the sites on that list, as well as suggested many other sites for consideration, including many on other publicly owned property and private properties. Most of the city-owned sites inventoried did not meet our siting criteria and are no longer under consideration. 

New sites, not on the above list, are being actively reviewed in all quadrants of the City. New site ideas continue to be suggested, and all are matched against the siting criteria. 

What are the criteria for site selection and who developed them?

We are using criteria for selecting sites that have been developed with input from many sources. Community members have shared thoughts on criteria and specific sites with the Commissioner, with all Council offices and bureau staff. A Home for Everyone’s Safety Off the Streets Workgroup—comprised of people with lived experience as unhoused neighbors—has significantly informed the criteria.

Additionally, residents of existing outdoor shelters (C3PO and others), and staff from both the Safe Rest Villages team and the Joint Office of Homeless Services with lived experience being unhoused have shaped the criteria and are part of the decision-making of site selection. Staff from other bureaus (Joint Office of Homeless Services, the Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program, the Bureau of Development Services, Portland Fire and Rescue, and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability) have also reviewed and provided feedback on the criteria.

While the siting criteria are being adapted as we learn more, we also understand that not every site will meet all criteria. Factoring in how a given site meets some but not all criteria is one reason this process takes time. Similarly, working through site considerations and concerns with property owners takes time to come to a shared agreement.

Generally the criteria we are using fall into three key categories: 

  • Safe to Rest In 
    • Not subject to environmental risk or hazards (contaminated soils, etc.)
    • Topography (flat and paved, safe for walking, wheelchairs, pod placement)
    • Enough space for COVID-safe distances between pods, communal space, and shared buildings
    • Some shelter from the elements
  • Accessible and Usable
    • Accommodates people with differing abilities
    • Proximity to social services, transit, jobs for villagers
    • Easy in/out for service providers, without impacting neighbors
    • Easy connection to utilities
    • Square footage sufficient to accommodate pods, shared spaces, and amenities
    • Areas of particular need
  • Contractual Considerations
    • Costs to purchase or lease land, etc.
    • Length of time available for use as a village
    • Zoning rules

How does equity impact Safe Rest Villages?

As a core City of Portland value—and a top priority for all members of the Safe Rest Villages team—equity is vital to site these new villages. The equity lens we are using as we approach this process is focused primarily on meeting the needs of our unhoused neighbors. The Safe Rest Villages team is working to ensure each of the village sites selected meets the overarching criteria listed above. Safety, accessibility, and centering the needs of Portlanders experiencing houselessness are our guiding equity goals.

As with any community, Portlanders living outside are not a monolithic group—they are a diverse group of people of all ages, races, sexual orientations, and abilities. As a response to the unique needs for safety and community among specific groups, the early C3PO villages that opened in Spring 2020 included one specifically focusing on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) villagers, another for folks on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, known as QA Village (for Queer Affinity), and the third was a non-identity-specific village.

Similarly, Safe Rest Villages will serve low-income unhoused people sleeping outdoors, in public spaces, in vehicles, and other places not meant for human habitation. 

Based on the 2019 Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness in Portland/Gresham/Multnomah County, Oregon, (the 2021 Point-in-Time Count was postponed due to COVID-19), we know that communities of color disproportionately made up 36.1% of the unsheltered houseless population, but only 29.5% of the population of Multnomah County. Additionally, 78.7% of unsheltered people reported one or more disabling conditions—including physical disabilities, mental illness, and substance use disorders.

We understand that the COVID-19 public health emergency has amplified existing housing insecurity and that low-income communities and people of color have been disproportionately impacted by the negative economic impacts of COVID-19, and we anticipate that the percentage of unhoused people identifying as from a community of color has increased. This project intends to serve communities of color at the rate they experience unsheltered homelessness in our region. 

Sites are being considered across the City, in all quadrants, with siting criteria as the guide to ensure their success in serving future villagers. Up until our community’s massive shelter expansion starting in 2016when shelter capacity doubled from 650 beds to nearly 1,400 bedsmost services and shelter locations were concentrated downtown. We learned years ago that limiting shelters to one part of the city was a barrier that prevented Portlanders from accessing shelter. People with lived experience said they needed services in the neighborhoods where they already had connections and where they were being forced from their housing and onto the streets. 

When can you confirm that certain sites on the list are no longer being considered? 

While we would love to say with certainty which sites are no longer being considered, until we confirm which sites ARE going to be Safe Rest Villages we are hesitant to permanently remove properties from the list. As shared above, we are using siting criteria to narrow the list, and many potential sites that were released in July 2021 had not been evaluated against those criteria at that time. Many have challenges, from on-site contamination due to past uses that make them unsafe for people to live without significant environmental remediation, while others have accessibility concerns, existing uses (like community gardens), short availability before future uses are scheduled, or other reasons that they are not preferred. 

As sites are confirmed as no longer being considered with 100% certainty, this website will be updated accordingly.

Are people with lived experience being unhoused involved in site selection and decision making?

Yes! The siting criteria have been developed through conversations with villagers living in existing outdoor shelters and program staff who work in existing villages to ensure they reflect the needs of Portlanders the villages will serve. Decision-makers from both the Safe Rest Villages team and the County Alternative Shelter team have lived experience being houseless.