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What is the plan for a village-style alternative shelter in St. Johns? 

The City of Portland and Multnomah County’s Joint Office of Homeless Services is working with Do Good Multnomah, a shelter and housing services provider, to partner with residents of Hazelnut Grove, an established, self-organized community of people experiencing homelessness, around the establishment of a transitional shelter village in St. Johns for roughly 20 people.


(click here for a version in spanish)

Hazelnut Grove residents would be among the first group in the new village, with people experiencing homelessness in St. Johns offered priority access to fill remaining spots and then fill spots as they open when residents move forward to permanent housing.

This village wouldn’t open for several months, likely spring of 2020, leaving time for design work, procurement and construction.

Inside the original Kenton Women’s Village site.

Inside the original Kenton Women’s Village site.

Like the long-term location of the Joint Office-supported Kenton Women’s Village, due to be fully built out this year, a St. Johns village would not resemble an unsanctioned campsite. It would have sleeping pods, plumbing, electricity, nonprofit support around housing outcomes, and security features.

In October, the Joint Office identified a site on North Roberts Avenue, near North Lombard Street, as one option for providing a legal, permitted alternative shelter, after reviewing more than 400 city-owned properties. The Joint Office and partners in the work attended two community meetings in the fall to talk about the Roberts site. A “village fair” to further explore the project was convened at Wayfinding Academy in St. Johns in January 2019. A site survey was undertaken after that.

Then, this spring, while the review of the Roberts site was under way, congregants at the St. Johns Christian Church voted to offer land at 8005 N. Richmond Ave., via lease, as an alternative to the Roberts site.\

The Richmond site is larger and appears to pose fewer design challenges (neighbors have constructed encroaching driveways through the city-owned Roberts land, for example). And it is much closer to community amenities such as additional bus lines, the Library, grocery stores, food assistance locations, and the County’s North Portland Health Clinic.

The Joint Office shared an update about the church vote with neighbors and neighborhood groups the next day, on April 8. St. Johns Christian Church hosted an event with community members on April 23. And the St. Johns Neighborhood Association hosted a forum on May 13.

What is Hazelnut Grove?

Hazelnut Grove is a village-style alternative shelter community that’s been operating on city-owned land in the Overlook neighborhood — but without infrastructure like water, sewer and electricity, or a service provider partner— since 2015.

It currently serves roughly 15 single adults and people in couples. Hazelnut Grove has a board of advisers, including neighbors and community members who live outside the Grove. It is governed through general assembly meetings; those meetings are open to neighbors to attend.

Residents at Hazelnut Grove have been involved in community work in the Overlook neighborhood, including serving on the Overlook Neighborhood Association’s board. Hazelnut Grove also has built enduring and supportive relationships with nearby neighbors in Overlook that would continue even after a move. Members also volunteer in the neighborhood and for the Oregon Food Bank.

Hazelnut Grove’s current site operates with donations, with some facilities and logistical support — such as trash pickup — provided by the City of Portland. Like the city’s three other alternative shelters, Hazelnut Grove’s current site is on city land. But it has been operating without partnership from a service provider and formal city approval. 

An alternative shelter is not a camp or a campsite. It is simply a shelter that is not facility-based, i.e. not in a single building. Alternative shelters, structured as pod villages, have tiny homes or “pods” where guests stay. They share communal buildings that house shared services and amenities such as cooking and meeting spaces, social services office and storage.

What would a village in St. Johns mean for people in need locally?

A village in St. Johns would mean significant facilities improvements for residents at Hazelnut Grove while creating opportunities for folks in St. Johns to receive shelter and services while learning from the model of community support the Grove has built. Partnership with an established provider would also mean residents would receive transitional services to move forward to permanent housing.

Do Good Multnomah, besides operating a long-time Veterans shelter in Northeast Portland, has experience working with a village. It is working with Clackamas County to operate a village-style alternative shelter for Veterans. Do Good also has experience offering transition services, rapid rehousing assistance and developing permanent housing. 

You can learn more about Do Good Multnomah at

The closest site-design comparison is the Kenton Women’s Village, which you can learn more about at

What’s the timeline?

No matter the site, it will be months before a village opens in St. Johns. A firm date has not yet been established.

Construction/installation and ongoing services and facilities would be funded by the Joint Office of Homeless Services, which also funds those services at the Kenton Women’s Village. At this point, it’s too soon to say how much the project would cost, without more design work and analysis.

The village would also be subject to applicable city inspection standards.

Here’s an estimated timeline.

Spring/summer 2019: Site analysis begins on Richmond. Procurement process begins.

Fall 2019: Current estimate (as of May 2019) for earliest start of site preparation work.

Spring 2020: Current estimate (as of May 2019) for earliest completion of site preparation work, installation of structures and opening of village.

Who would stay at the village and for how long?

The village would serve couples and single adults 18 and older.

Pets would be allowed. Guests would be able to have a bed as long as they need, with the expectation that they are engaging with Do Good Multnomah and working toward permanent housing. We expect the village to accommodate 20 pods.

Participants will stay at the site subject to participation agreements that set expectations for how they treat each other and how they conduct themselves in the surrounding area. Anyone unwilling or unable to abide by these agreements will not be able to stay at the site. Drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs will be not be permitted at the village.

How will a village fit within the services already offered by partners in A Home for Everyone, our community’s strategy for addressing homelessness?

After leading a dramatic expansion that doubled year-round shelter capacity in our community, partners in A Home for Everyone, including the City of Portland and Multnomah County, are now working to transform those temporary, emergency spaces into enduring, purpose-designed shelter opportunities that serve our ultimate goal of helping neighbors keep or return to housing.

Although this kind of alternative shelter will be set up on open space, with common areas and movable pods, expectations are no different than for any other traditional shelter.

Hazelnut Grove or any provider must provide safe and supportive environments for their guests and help them transition to permanent housing. They also must be good neighbors to those nearby.

Alternative shelter provides a sense of community, and it’s another option for people who do not want, or struggle to succeed in, facility-based shelter and don’t have access to permanent housing options. It also empowers participants by giving them a voice in how their sites are governed, and allows participants to engage with community members.

It’s not meant as a replacement for programs like rent assistance, housing case management or facility-based shelter, all of which successfully help thousands of neighbors in our community every year.

Why not other models like hotels or larger shelters?

Our shelter system depends on a range of interventions and models, and a village model of providing shelter is just one way we have worked to expand our offerings to provide more services tailored for more people.

Out of more than 1,300 publicly funded beds — double the number just four years ago — most are in traditional structures that offer beds to as many as 120 people at a time. We have worked to remake our system overall so it works better, moving as many shelters as possible to 24-hour operations with services (housing placement, clinics, etc.) offered on site.

Shelters now offer beds for couples, so partners no longer have to split up to find a safe place to sleep. Pets are welcome, and people can store belongings. Beds also are offered by reservation, and are held for someone as long as they need it while seeking housing — meaning no more nightly queuing at the shelters the Joint Office oversees.

People on the streets, seeking better options for themselves, have been among the most passionate champions of villages and have long organized to add them to the system. While many people still prefer traditional shelter, villages provide another way to bring services to people who might struggle in those settings and who might find empowerment and success in the community-building that a village can offer.

How can neighbors in St. Johns contribute to a successful village?

Village residents would be expected to contribute to their new neighborhood like any other new arrival might — including volunteering and hosting community events, co-gardening space and offering to work with volunteers.  Neighbors are already stepping up to help connect villagers to those opportunities.

Do Good Multnomah, which operates a men’s Veterans shelter in Northeast Portland, also has a track record of working with other tenants in the church complex it occupies, including a preschool. On Valentine’s Day, students at the school presented the Veterans with heart-shaped pizzas.

Here are some examples of how to work together:

Meet with supporters: A group called St. Johns Welcomes the Village is gathering educational materials and opportunities for engagement. To learn more, contact Lindsay Jensen at the St. Johns Center for Opportunity at

Attend regular meetings: Get to know each other through regular get-togethers, such as village meetings. This is a place to provide input and come up with joint project ideas.

One on one: Directly contact the village with questions or ideas.

Shared projects: Co-create fun, community-based joint projects with guests, neighbors and other nonprofits. Examples from other, similar projects include vegetable gardens, sharing a community space for meetings and celebrations, spaghetti dinners and helping to build new pods when that work is under way.

Neighborhood events: Invite village residents to neighborhood events – for example, Kenton Women’s Village created (and won a prize for) a float in the St. Johns Parade.

Tours: Villages frequently offer tours where you can learn more. Contact the village first to find out what times will work.

Neighborhood resources: Connect residents to resources in the neighborhood. Other neighborhoods have connected folks to jobs, free tickets at the local theater and more.

Volunteer: Invite residents to participate in volunteer projects around the neighborhood – people like to give back. Hazelnut Grove, for example, has regularly been volunteering at the Oregon Food Bank. Also, neighbors can often volunteer at the village. Volunteering could include contributing your professional expertise (such as nursing or construction assistance) or just helping out as needed (like gardening or hosting a potluck). You can ask the village, they may have a list of ideas or needs.

How would Do Good Multnomah address safety concerns?

Like any good neighbor, and like any other social services provider, a village must be responsible for safe and effective property management that ensures safety for the guests of the village and the village’s neighbors

A few examples that build from our experience from other sanctioned villages, such as the Kenton Women’s Village, Dignity Village and Right 2 Dream Too:

●     The village will have a fence and gate, with an office at the gate.

●     Do Good will maintain 24/7 phone number — and will facilitate meetings with neighbors as needed.

●     General assembly meetings will be open to the public.

●     Most importantly, the village will engage the surrounding neighbors in community activities. Meeting each other and knowing one another individually helps everyone feel comfortable, safe and a part of the neighborhood.

With respect to concerns about people with certain criminal histories receiving services at sites near residential communities, we should be clear: If an individual’s criminal history precludes them from being within a certain distance of a school, they wouldn’t be allowed to live at this shelter. Just as they wouldn’t be allowed to live in a nearby apartment, house or tent. Do Good Multnomah will also screen out sex offenders directly.

Parole and probation officers, as they do throughout our community, enforce supervision terms that set those boundaries. And they will arrest those who violate them, again, whether they live in homes of their own or are sleeping in unsanctioned campsites.

As we have in other neighborhoods, we are committed to ensuring that the program succeeds, for its residents but also for the community. And in the unlikely event that problems arise that cannot be timely addressed, we will revisit the operator, the program model, and even the continued use of the site for this kind of village community. 

Do Good Multnomah would also work to ensure there is no unsanctioned camping around the village location.

Will the village attract RV or spillover camping?

No one will be able to walk up to the village and receive services or a sleeping pod. This program is reservation-based, like our other publicly funded shelters. Our other shelters, including the Kenton Women’s Village, have not served as magnets for camping.

Do Good Multnomah will work to ensure there is no unsanctioned camping around the village location.

If the lease ends, who would be responsible for the removal of RVs and tents on this location?

If there is no village on this land, and camping is noted on the site in the absence of a village, like with any other site in the city, neighbors can call the One Point of Contact system operated by the City of Portland to report high-impact sites.

If someone’s feeling unsafe or there’s a criminal issue, they can call 911 or the Portland Police Bureau’s emergency line, 503-823-3333.

will the church lot provide privacy for the village residents?

There are no homes that border the Richmond site. Just like with the Roberts site, The site would have a fence and potentially other screening to protect the privacy and security of the villagers as well as the privacy of the neighbors.

What screening process will be used for the village?

Sex offenders will be screened out by Do Good Multnomah through background checks. Residents will be entered into the city’s Homeless Management Information System, which collects client-level data on housing and shelter services provided to community members who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Do Good Multnomah would work with neighbors and community partners around referrals that identify individuals who would be a good fit for the village. Specific agreements and rules will be captured in a village manual. Some details will be determined through working with neighbors and stakeholders in a good neighbor agreement.

What other sites were scouted for the village?

City staff worked with city bureaus to compile a comprehensive list of vacant city properties in January 2018. The list included more than 400 properties; 77 percent were ruled out based on zoning restrictions or challenges alone.

Satellite map searches and in-person visits helped narrow the remaining list. Some sites that appeared vacant were actually signed as natural areas in reality, like land near Baltimore Woods. Others were used by the Parks Bureau. One was actually a part of a road: 162nd Avenue.

That left 10 locations, with many also having other issues that don’t allow a village by right under zoning code.

Five of those sites were in Southwest Portland’s Hayhurst neighborhood, a series of contiguous lots that hold other large pieces of water infrastructure. Another site, in Russell in Southeast, has a water tank. One in Powellhurst-Gilbert had a bog. Another site in Powellhurst-Gilbert has no entry point, because it’s surrounded by public buildings.

Of the two remaining sites of those 10, one is the Roberts site. The other is a site in Kenton that’s become the long-term home of the Kenton Women’s Village.

The Richmond site emerged later as an alternative to the public sites. The Roberts site, while feasible, presents challenges because of its footprint, remote location and the presence of two driveways constructed by next-door neighbors. The Joint Office was open to considering a different location that didn’t present those challenges.

Before the Joint Office announced plans for a village on the Roberts site last year, neighbors had already been talking with faith leaders in St. Johns, including at St. Johns Christian Church, about an independently managed village using church property.

Neighbors then connected the Joint Office to St. Johns Christian Church, which met with the Joint Office and Do Good Multnomah and agreed to offer up, for lease, its land on Richmond.

For further information:

Please reach out to April Rohman, senior program specialist for adult shelter at the Joint Office of Homeless Services, at