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Aug. 22, 2022

A Year of Progress for Safe Rest Villages 

In August 2021, shortly after federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was secured for the Safe Rest Village (SRV) project, Commissioner Dan Ryan appointed the City's first Houselessness Strategies Manager to lead the initiative. The assignment: develop a team to drive authentic community engagement, identify viable sites for selection and development, oversee grant management and reporting, and to pilot efforts that will streamline future tiny village development in Portland. And, of course, establish safe, supportive environments for people to replenish, focus on their next steps, and build community. It's been quite a year, with much work happening behind the scenes.

This newsletter ventures to paint a picture of all that work, credit the many partners who have helped along the way, and celebrate the many accomplishments of the first year of the Safe Rest Village program.

Building Shelter, Creating Community

The Safe Rest Village project endeavors to provide safe, stable housing with services that connect people experiencing houselessness to the next path along their journey. Specifically, the SRV program is establishing six new Safe Rest Village sites and taking over fiscal and site development responsibilities for three previously existing alternative outdoor shelters (the current Queer Affinity Village and BIPOC Village, and the now-closed Old Town Village).


The City of Portland is responsible for fiscal oversight of funding, using a portion of the City's federal ARPA grant funds. Funding expenditures include directly paying for the SRV team, site development, infrastructure costs, the relocation and decommissioning of closed sites, and all property-related costs. The City also invests a portion of these ARPA funds in the Joint Office of Homeless Services, which plays a crucial role in managing the programmatic aspects of the Safe Rest Villages, including the selection and oversight of shelter operators—like Cultivate Initiatives at Menlo Park SRV, and All Good Northwest at Multnomah SRVBIPOC Village, and Queer Affinity Village—to oversee day-to-day activities at the sites.

  • # ARPA federal funds allocated for alternative shelters over the 3-year life of the grant = $ 52.02M
  • # funds allocated from State of Oregon for RV Safe Park = $ 1M
  • # contractors = 12
  • # sleeping unit and service structure manufacturers = 6
  • # shelter operators (announced at this point) = 2

Meet the team behind the work

The Safe Rest Village team comes to this work with authentic compassion, motivation, and an openness to learning. The team includes a project manager, three community engagement coordinators, a communications liaison, a construction manager, and a grant analyst. (Note - not all are pictured above.)

Listening, Learning and Understanding

Over the last year, the SRV team met with Portlanders living outdoors, conducted site visits of existing shelters—including Dignity Village, Old Town Village, and Vancouver's Safe Stay Community—and support service programs—like Vancouver's Safe Parking Zone, and Helping Hands' Bybee Lake Hope Center—to learn more about the housing landscape in the region from those with lived experience and to develop relationships and exchange ideas to foster ongoing success for the Safe Rest Village program.

The SRV team met with project partners at the Joint Office of Homeless Services and shelter program operators from cities across the country to learn from their experiences. The team also toured the Community Health and Workforce Development programs at Cultivate Initiatives (now hired as the Menlo Park SRV shelter operator). 

The SRV team has also spoken to Catholic Charities and Salvation Army staff about their programs to learn from their experiences. The SRV team is also leaning into the local expertise at Portland State University's Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative (HRAC). 

Beyond Portland, the team has talked to program staff at Beaverton's Safe Park programBend's Safe Parking program, the Safe Parking LA programUrban Alchemy in San Francisco, and The Other Ones Foundation in Austin, TX, as well as programs in San Diego and Richmond, CA.

Learning has been a two-way street. The Safe Rest Village team has spoken to shelter and service operators at We ShineAfroVillage, and staffers from Washington County, the City of Tigard, and the City of San Diego, have reached out to learn more about the Safe Rest Village program

In collaboration with bureaus across the City, the SRV team helped develop a clear path for others to create their own tiny home villages. In February 2022, the City published the Temporary Outdoor Shelter Program Guide, a roadmap for permitting requirements for this type of shelter development. Before publication, there was no clear guidance for Portland developers, as Outdoor Shelters we not recognized as an allowable development under City Code.

Are you looking for a good read? Explore the HRAC study on tiny pod villages (published April 2022). It pre-dates the opening of Portland's first Safe Rest Village but offers excellent information on various programs, practices, and people involved in multiple models of villages.

Site Selection and Development

Community members, social service providers, City staff, and advocates suggested possible locations on public and private land. More than 100 possible locations were reviewed and measured against the site selection criteria and then cross-referenced with siting needs from social service providers and those with lived experience. The work of A Home for Everyone’s Safety Off the Streets Workgroup, comprised of people with lived experience as unhoused neighbors, also significantly informed the site selection criteria.

The Safe Rest Village team looked for geographic distribution across the City to provide services where people are. All SRVs have confirmed sites with property agreements.

  • # potential sites reviewed = 100+
  • # outdoor shelters built = 3
  • # SRVs open = 1
  • # SRVs in permitting/construction = 2
  • # SRVs in design/planning = 3
  • # new sleeping units added to the system since August ‘21 = 35
  • # new sleeping units in pipeline = 212
  • # of RVs to be allowed at RV Safe Park = 57

Partners on Progress

Many public sector partners, inside and beyond the City of Portland, made the Safe Rest Village program possible. We are grateful for collaboration from the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, the Portland Bureau of Transportation, the Office of Management and Finance, as well as from other public sector partners at TriMetProsper Portland, the Port of Portland, and the Oregon Department of Transportation. We are also extremely grateful for the partnership of Madrona Park LLC, for the three-year lease on their privately owned property.

Some of this was made easier thanks to the Mayor’s Emergency Declaration in March 2022, confirming the list of SRV sites.

  • # property partners = 8
  • # properties SRV team has been responsible for = 11
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
     ~ Winston Churchill

Donations of Services and Supplies

Many people and organizations have shared in numerous ways, and the SRV team wants to recognize their generosity. With great need and many opportunities to support others, the SRV team is grateful to all who have chosen to support the Safe Rest Village program.

Continuing Community Engagement 

A crucial part of the work of the SRV team has been and will continue to be engaging with the community around and within the Save Rest Villages. 

This work is evolving as the team continues to move from announcing sites to discussing actual future locations and navigating the opening of new villages. SRV shelter operators will be critical partners in this as they come on board and join engagement efforts. For each site announced thus far, the SRV team has developed detailed web pages, convened monthly conversations with stakeholders, and brought forward Good Neighbor Agreements. These efforts are intended to ensure all partners involved with a village—the Neighborhood Association, nearby businesses and organizations, SRV team, shelter operators, Impact Reduction Program team, and other groups with a role to play—are clear on expectations, lines of communication, and have a shared problem-solving process to address concerns as they come up.

Commissioner Ryan and SRV staff have attended Neighborhood Association meetings, met with and listened to other community groups' concerns, and incorporated concerns into how we move forward. We have a Community Engagement page on our project website that lists these and, where available, includes links to recorded events for transparency.

  • # community group/neighborhood association meetings attended = 20
  • # stakeholder groups = 7
  • # stakeholder meetings since March = 29

Community Education and Awareness

Hand in hand through intentional community engagement with specific communities around the villages, Commissioner Ryan and the SRV team have also educated the broader public about the program. Sharing what the Safe Rest Villages are and how they fit into a more extensive network of services and supports for people at risk and those experiencing houselessness is an integral part of the success of the SRV program.

This has included presenting at numerous community groups, associations, and media outlets on the issue of houselessness in general and SRVs. The Community Engagement page on the project website identifies many of these.

Essential tools in this effort include the Safe Rest Village website (check out the recent updates) and this periodic SRV newsletter.

  • # TV/media programs Commissioner Ryan spoke about SRVs and houselessness = 9
  • # presentations delivered by SRV team = 22

Support, Community and Connection

Many of this year’s accomplishments are quantifiable, and the results offer a qualitative perspective. For example, providing safety and support to those in need, relationship building, strengthening new partnerships, and expanding public understanding of Portlanders experiencing houselessness and their needs are all outputs of what we have been doing and why we are doing it.
  • # of "Friends of SRV" groups formed = 1 
             ... so far
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