One suggested solution to Abbotsford's ongoing homelessness issues is to set up a designated area for people to stay

One suggested solution to Abbotsford's ongoing homelessness issues is to set up a designated area for people to stay

Solution for homelessness?

Dignity Village in Oregon has been called an "affordable, alternative strategy," but Portland doesn't encourage creating more campgrounds.

Portland, Oregon – like Abbotsford – has been grappling with how to handle homelessness.

In an ongoing experiment started 13 years ago, the city freely leased land to a group of homeless people to set up a “transitional housing campground.”

The site, named Dignity Village, sits on about two acres in an industrial part of town. The current 43 shelters can house a maximum of 60 people, each of whom can stay at the campground for up to two years. Amid the scattering of “glorified wood sheds” is electricity, a septic system, Internet, and 24/7 security. The cost, says resident and outreach coordinator Scott Layman, is about $2 per person, per day. He estimates that a city-managed emergency shelter costs seven times that. It cost Dignity Village $2,500 during startup for the electric and sewage hookups, and about $1,500 monthly to maintain.

“We provide a clean and safe place for people to come and get back on their feet,” said Layman. “We have helped thousands of people move from homelessness to permanent housing.”

Instead of waiting in line daily for a bed to sleep in, residents can trust that they have access to a shower and a place to keep their belongings while they search for work or keep jobs. They share an address and phone number, and don’t pay for their shelters. Operational costs are covered through micro-businesses within the campground.

The city still owns the land, and requires that Dignity Village carry liability and fire insurance. The health department also regularly checks that health and safety standards are met.

Although the City of Portland referred to Dignity Village as “an affordable, alternative strategy,” the city does not encourage more such campgrounds.

“The city invests in creating affordable homes and rapid rehousing through rent assistance and eviction prevention. Setting up, owning or operating campgrounds are not part of the city’s plan to end homelessness,” said Portland Housing Bureau’s public information officer Jaymee Cuti.

Seattle, meanwhile, forcibly evicted 100 people from a two-year illegal encampment called Nickelsville on Sept. 1, 2013. There were complaints of flooding, rat infestation, and police calls, according to the Seattle Times. The city was also battling a $1.65-million lawsuit from a business owner who argued that the camp affected his property value.

Dignity Village has admitted to a rodent problem as well, but Layman insisted that the site is cleaner and safer than traditional emergency shelters, and that no one has filed serious complaints.

Many former residents from Seattle’s Nickelsville have moved into tent cities, such as those run by non-profit Share/Wheel. These still provide a roof and services, but residents have to pack up and move to another borrowed site every 90 days. That’s the maximum time that Seattle allows them to stay under the “temporary use permit.”

Like Dignity Village, the tent cities provide people with the reliable bed and shower they need in order to be presentable at job interviews or at work, said resident and volunteer worker Gregor Talbot. Many of the residents are professionals such as nurses and software developers, Talbot said, who suffered during the recession, perhaps had their homes foreclosed, and now need a place to stay until they can get back on their feet. Their employers likely don’t know they are living in a tent city. Share/Wheel’s two outdoor tent cities and 16 indoor facilities provide emergency homes for about 500 people.

Talbot argues that such tent cities are less expensive than a city-managed shelter, safe, and don’t cause problems in the neighbourhood.

Neighbours see it differently, however, and frequently file complaints. That may be because unlike Dignity Village, Share/Wheel frequently ends up opening temporary tent cities in residential areas. At present, they have one on freely loaned church land in an affluent suburban area in Redmond, 15 minutes from the Microsoft building.

Just Posted

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

Missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs was found deceased on Thursday evening (June 17).
Body of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs found

Hobbs was reported missing Monday after leaving his job site in Langley

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Surrey Fire Service battled a dock fire along the Fraser River late Friday night (June 18). It was on Musqueam Drive, near Industrial Road, around 10:45 p.m. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
VIDEO: Fire engulfs pier on Surrey side of the Fraser River

Dock has reportedly been unused for a long time

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

People in Metro Vancouver can expect to experience a short wave of heat just in time for Father’s Day, according to Environment Canada. (Black Press Media files)
Short-lived heatwave headed for Metro Vancouver this weekend

Temperatures are expected to be up to 10 degrees higher than average Sunday and Monday

Most Read