Portland has been faced with an ongoing homeless problem for a while now. Last year, they declared a state of emergency where it was no longer illegal to sleep on the streets. Their creative solution, a project called “A Place For You” is planned on coming into play this summer.
In an effort to house some of their derelict, they are preparing to construct small homes called ‘Accessory Dwelling Units’ or ‘Granny Flats’ for select homeless families to live in which are then placed into the backyards of willing homeowners. These units are essentially tiny mobile homes without the wheels.
This idea to create housing in underutilized space came from FEMA, and the best location they found is in people’s backyards. So far, 200 homeowners have signed up, so their neighbors better be prepared for some new friends in their district.
Becca and Kelly Love were some of the first to express interest. Becca, a social worker, and Kelly, a counselor, see the impacts of sky-high rents first-hand in their jobs working with low-income students at Portland Community College. They live in North Portland, an area struggling with homelessness. ‘Just because you don’t have housing, it doesn’t make you a bad person or more likely to be a bad tenant. In fact, you’d be a better tenant because you’d appreciate it,’ said Becca Love. ‘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.’
Housing officials are still ironing out many details, but they will buy the first four modular units with $365,000 in government money and a charitable donation. The 200-square-foot units under consideration will be large enough to house an adult and one – or possibly two – children, Li said. All families will be screened and the homeowner and the tenants will sign a lease that spells out what behaviors won’t be tolerated. The families will receive social services that the county already provides to all homeless families they house, Li said, and they will pay 30 per cent of the rent themselves. Li said the houses will be life-changing, especially for homeless parents.’They’re desperately afraid that something will happen to their children, that eventually someone might take their children from them,’ she said. ‘So they’re working very hard to stay under the radar screen and make sure they’re doing what they can to raise their children and have them be taken care of in the best way possible.’
Housing officials in the city and surrounding Multnomah County have increasingly turned to so-called “tiny houses” and even portable sleeping pods.