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Safe Park Village Planned for Montavilla Neighborhood

Alternative Shelter for the Houseless Community

Nena Enyinwa, Charles Lott, Pastor Minnieweather, Latoya Minnieweather, and Michael Martin


Under the direction of Multnomah County’s Joint Office of Homeless Services, the nonprofit Straightway Services has been selected to manage a new ‘safe park’ for houseless people living in their cars in the Montavilla neighborhood.

 

The site, at 333 S.E. 82nd Ave., will be fenced and will include trash services, showers, restrooms, laundry, a kitchenette and housing services with support from county agencies.

 

For 22 years, Straightway Services, founded by Pastor Dwight Minnieweather, has focused on programs serving youth, workforce development and homeless services.

 

“It means the world to us to operate this shelter and support an alternative way of helping people who sleep in their vehicles,” Minnieweather said.

 

The safe park, to be called The Light Community, will provide on-site services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will give people with no roof over their heads a safe place to stay and get their cars off the street, according to Minnieweather said, and will offer much more.

 

“We’ll make it a community with educational opportunities and connection to peer mentors,” he said. “This will be more than just a place to sleep. It will be a holistic community where people can become self-sufficient.”

 

The village will have 29 sleeping pods for up to 40 adults (18 and over), and 33 parking spots. Details for sign-up and referrals are still being finalized, but priority will be given to unhoused residents of the Montavilla neighborhood so they can stay connected to their neighborhood, according to the county press office. Straightway Services will collaborate with other organizations to identify potential residents of the safe park and ensure they get the support they need.

 

The county is in a crisis situation because of the high numbers of unhoused people, and urgent new options like safe parks are called for so those people can leave the streets for a safer and more humane location where they can have access to services to support them as they work to return to housing and stability, according to the county.

 

Round-the-clock staffing and security fencing will ensure the safety and security of the village, and only participants and their registered guests will be allowed to enter.

 

Six 8x20-foot metal shelters will provide office space for staff and services, restrooms, kitchenettes and laundry facilities, and green space and a covered outdoor community area will be included in the park.

 

The site will be handicapped accessible, a high consideration in the site’s design. Twenty-seven percent of the parking spaces will be wheelchair accessible, half the restrooms will feature roll-in showers, and all facilities will have ramps and landings.

 

People with substance abuse disorders will also receive support from Straightway Services, which has a proven track record in helping community members overcome substance abuse.

 

Neighborhood businesses and residents are often hesitant about a new shelter in their neighborhood, but many support them once they are operational.

 

On March 12, about 30 community members attended an event supporting the shelter, hosted by Saints Peter & Paul Episcopal Church, which is located across the street from the safe park site.

 

Rev. Sara Fischer, who leads the church, said she heard from many people who want to support their unhoused neighbors.

 

“I think having a place where unhoused Montavilla neighbors can park free from anxiety about whether they or their vehicles are in danger helps the whole community,” she said. “It creates a space where residents can receive needed services that can help them navigate through the health care system and ideally continue on the path toward permanent housing. As with all of us, that path is going to look different for every person, but having a safe, supportive place to park is an important first step.”

 

Plans call for the safe park to open in 2024, but is contingent on completion of construction, including demolition of an existing building on the site.

 

County commissioner Diane Rosenbaum, whose district includes the Montavilla neighborhood, spoke at the community event.

 

“Quality shelter can provide dignity, safety and a pathway into housing and it can be an asset to its neighborhood,” she said. “I’m energized by the compassion, welcoming and thoughtful engagement of many neighbors I’ve met.”

 

The Joint Office of Homeless Services is a partnership between the county and the city of Portland. Those with questions about the proposed park can call 503-988-2525. Frequently asked questions about the safe park can be found at:

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