Global Risks

This is how Portland is tackling homelessness

Image: The Conversation

Leanna Garfield
Reporter, Tech Insider
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Like many American cities, Portland, Oregon, has a significant homeless population. As many as 4,000 people sleep on the streets or in shelters every night, according to the city's housing bureau.

A new initiative called A Place For You aims to help alleviate that problem. The program, created by the Multnomah County Idea Lab, will house the homeless in tiny pods in the backyards of willing homeowners.

As reported by the Associated Press, the city will pilot the project this summer with four homeless families in Multnomah County, Oregon. Approximately 200 homeowners have expressed interest in putting pods in their backyards. Those who live in the pods will pay a limited amount of rent and will receive social services the county provides to homeless families it houses.

Becca and Kelly Love, Portland residents who are considering putting a pod in their backyard, told the AP they understood the effects of rising rents in the city.

"Just because you don't have housing, it doesn't make you a bad person or more likely to be a bad tenant," Becca Love said to the AP. "In fact, you'd be a better tenant because you'd appreciate it. We've been trying to think of a way to help out in our community because we do have privilege … but we didn't know what to do."

Each 200-square-foot pod will have a unique design. They'll cost $75,000 each and be financed by a combination of local government funds and private donations. The pods will be able to house one adult and two children — inside, there will be a bed (some have bunk beds), shelves, a toilet, and a desk. They'll all come with heat and full plumbing.

Residents of a Portland neighborhood called Kenton approved a similar pilot project in early March. The 96-square-foot backyard pods, created by students from Portland State University and a local advocacy organization called the Village Coalition, will serve as homes for 14 homeless women.

Estimates suggest that rents in Portland were rising at an annualized rate of 14% in 2015 — one of the biggest increases in the US.

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