Alternative Shelter

A view inside a C3PO village, showing a Pallet personal shelter along with landscaping and other touches of community.

A view inside a C3PO village, showing a Pallet personal shelter along with landscaping and other touches of community.

Alternative shelter sites are generally outdoor sites with tiny houses/pods that offer increased safety, security, community, and basic human needs to people who are living unhoused. A wide range of services can be provided in these alternative shelter sites, including on-site case management, physical and mental health services, and housing placement.

I am in need of support - how can I connect to Alternative shelter like the C3PO villages?

On the All Good NW website are phone numbers for intake for each of the three C3PO (Creating Conscious Communities with People Outside) villages: the BIPOC village, the Queer Affinity Village and the Old Town Village. You can also email [email protected]. See below for links to other alternative shelter providers.

What are some examples of alternative shelter?

There are a variety of types of alternative shelters. The main ones serving people  in the Portland area are:

  • C3PO Villages (Creating Conscious Communities with People Outside) – see below for more info

  • Beacon Village PDX: 10-pod village located at Bridgeport United Church of Christ opened in Fall 2021, with support from the Joint Office of Homeless Services. Beyond shelter, the program also offers employment and other support services.

  • St. Johns Village: The village, operated by Do Good Multnomah under a contract with the Joint Office of Homeless Services, hosts 19 sleeping pods on land leased from a neighboring church, and includes a community building and on-site housing and case management services.  

  • Kenton Women’s Village: A village of 20 sleeping pods for self-identified women, operated by Catholic Charities with support from the Joint Office of Homeless Services. The Village offers on-site services including mental health care, visiting nursing students, financial literacy and individual development accounts, assistance with job search and/or benefits applications, housing search, cooking lessons, yoga, gardening lessons, social activities, food pantries, and more.

  • Dignity Village: The original “alternative shelter” village in Portland, founded in 2000 by the homeless community, for the homeless community, on land provided by the City of Portland. They call themselves “a cross between a transitional housing option and an intentional community.” The Joint Office supports Dignity Village by assigning housing case management workers to work with folks staying there.

  • Right 2 Dream Too is a nighttime rest stop that provides nighttime sleeping spaces to the community and longer-term shelter for folks who also help run the rest stop. The rest stop’s location is provided by the City of Portland. The Joint Office supports Right 2 Dream Too by assigning housing case management workers to work with folks staying there.

  • SRVs (Safe Rest Villages) - A City of Portland led program (supported by the JOHS and providers) to provide unhoused Portlanders with a place to access sleep, basic and necessary hygiene, and access to case management and behavioral health services

  • Other alternative shelters run directly by churches and community groups

What makes this type of shelter ‘alternative’?

Alternative shelter is different from ‘traditional’ shelters, which are generally thought of as congregate shelters. When people think of congregate shelters, they may imagine large rooms where many people sleep on cots or mats, and where they have to line up night after night to get a bed. Our congregate shelter system has evolved past that, with rooms divided into more private bays, featuring bunkbeds, and offering spaces like kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms.

But even with those amenities, some people are unable to cope with the general amount of noise and relative lack of privacy in emergency/congregate shelters. Alternative shelters are also an alternative to motel sheltering, which is another shelter option that has been made available to families, those with COVID-19 and other vulnerable populations during the pandemic. The goal for alternative shelters is to provide unique, low-barrier shelter options to serve those who may not feel comfortable accessing other shelter options. 

What does the Joint Office of Homeless Services’ overall shelter system look like?

Before COVID-19, the Joint Office and the City and County supported roughly 1,400 year-round shelter beds. Right now, thanks to a series of shelters that have opened during the pandemic, the Joint Office is supporting more than 1,600 beds, motel rooms and sleeping pods. Because motel rooms and sleeping pods may serve more than one person, the total number of people served can be even larger.

Once COVID-19 restrictions lift, and because many COVID-19 shelters will continue as longer-term shelters, that number will climb toward 2,000 beds, pods and rooms. And as more shelters come online, that number will continue to climb.

Those longer-term shelters will include the C3POs villages, which this page focuses on. 

A bit of history:

Portland city officials, the Joint Office and community nonprofits worked early in the COVID-19 pandemic to create three outdoor shelters known as C3PO, or Creating Conscious Communities with People Outside. In October 2021 the City and County together agreed to make these alternative shelters longer term, and the Joint Office contracted with a local non-profit to run the sites.

These spaces offer the dignity of personal shelters for sleeping, regular access to meals, water, laundry, restrooms and showers, along with the support of a village community.

We believe that just because someone loses their housing, they shouldn’t have to lose their community, too. 


What is C3PO?

  • C3PO stands for Creating Conscious Communities with People Outside. C3PO consists of three unique houseless outdoor shelters started by a collaboration of local nonprofits, the City of Portland, and Multnomah County.

  • The three villages opened in Spring 2020 and include:

    • BIPOC Village: focusing on Black, Indigenous, & People of Color

    • QA Village: also known as Queer Affinity, for folks on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum

    • Old Town Village: our non-identity-specific village

Are the C3PO villages tent camps? Who do the shelters serve? What services are provided?

  • C3PO villages are not tent camps.

  • Each village operates as a 24-hour, low-barrier adult shelter that allows couples and pets.

  • C3PO villages provide personal tiny-home shelters (with heat and electricity), meals and snacks, access to bathrooms, showers, and laundry; connection to housing and social services resources.

  • Personal shelters are available only through an intake process. Walk-up shelter and services are not provided.

How does C3PO fit within the city and County’s larger strategy for providing shelter and housing services?

  • The C3PO shelters are part of a large network of services funded by the Joint Office. That includes the shelter system detailed above, but it also includes housing placement work that helps thousands of people a year leave the streets and shelters for permanent housing. 

  • This housing placement work doesn’t rely solely on building new housing; rather it relies on helping people pay rents in market-rate apartments that are already available.

  • C3PO villages provide otherwise unsheltered adults living in Portland with access to essential shelter resources. That has included an emphasis on resources required for staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, including proper personal protective equipment, hygiene facilities, education about the virus, testing and vaccine clinics, and the ability to stay physically distant in an outdoor setting. The C3PO villages helped the community not just maintain but increase shelter capacity during the pandemic, despite the need to space out beds and provide physical distancing.

  • BIPOC Village also emphasizes culturally responsive service provision for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) individuals and households, and the QA Affinity Village supports culturally responsive services for LGBTQIA households. In doing so, the Village supports community members who are underrepresented within shelter systems but over-represented among people experiencing homelessness overall. This focus is especially significant during this pandemic, as we are supporting community members who have statistically disproportionate rates of morbidity from COVID-19, as well as facing other challenges and barriers. 

  • Participants at C3PO villages also can access housing and social services resources throughout the rest of the homelessness response system.

How do the C3PO sites ensure safety for the surrounding community?

  • Shelter that focuses on safety and community, while also providing health services and connections to housing resources, is a critical part of local government’s work preventing and ending homelessness. And like any business or program, shelters must be well-run to succeed, not just for their neighbors but for their participants.

  • We hold our operators and programs to high standards, and support them to ensure their success. We have not seen significant issues with crime or other concerns because of our shelters.

  • The Joint Office has supported the opening of many shelters since 2016, from the Pearl District to Mill Park. Some sit on commercial strips. Some are next to residences, and near schools and parks.

  • After our shelters have opened, community members have often come together to celebrate and support their new neighbors through activities, volunteering, and donations. 

How are these sites managed?

  • The Joint Office of Homeless Services, a shared partnership between the City of Portland and Multnomah County, has assumed oversight of the C3PO villages. The City of Portland’s Emergency Coordination Center worked with community-based nonprofits, the Joint Office and other City staff to develop and oversee the initial village sites. In November 2021 the operation of the three C3PO villages was turned over to All Good Northwest (originally the sites were run by JOIN PDX, then Right 2 Dream Too). 

Why are alternative shelter sites like C3PO necessary?

  • C3PO reflects what we have learned throughout our emergency response to homelessness. Congregate shelters work well and provide services and stability for many people. But not every unsheltered person is willing or able to live in a congregate shelter environment.

  • We believe our shelter system should offer a range of models so we offer the best options for as many people as possible. This village model provides individuals experiencing homelessness with shelter, increased safety, and stability.

More info/links:

Analysis: Evaluation and Best Practices for the Village Model (conducted by Portland State University’s Homelessness Research and Action Center)

Temporary Outdoor Shelter Program Guide (Portland Bureau of Development Services)