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Katie Mays, the site's social worker, stands next to villager Rick Proudfoot in front of his house. All photos by Paul Dunn. On a frigid January morning in Portland, Ore. All were, or are, homeless. Newcomers to this homeless refuge huddle in the warming station, a small portable with photos of smiling former residents and where they are required to stay during a day probationary period.

They hope to graduate to a small makeshift home like Karen, a three-month resident whose boisterous laugh carries through the village. Located in northeast Portland, Dignity Village is a self-governed gated community, which currently serves 60 people on any given night—the city limits the —and provides shelter in the form of tiny houses built mainly from donated and recycled materials. The village emerged in the winter of as a tent city called Camp Dignity.

But it moved. After more than a year of public controversy, the city sanctioned a permanent campsite on Sunderland Yard, city-owned land six miles west of the Portland International Airport. The village has resided on this site since , when advocates and officials reached a compromise on a location after contentious negotiations, but there are no more tents.

Now officially a nonprofit, Dignity Village is governed by a democratically elected council of nine residents, who are responsible for day-to-day decisions; all residents can vote on big decisions, like whether to remove a resident or enter into contracts with service providers, in town-hall-style meetings.

No children are allowed at the village because background checks are not a requirement to stay there. The city has its own problems with pervasive homelessness. The issue prompted Mayor Ed Murray to deliver a rare televised address on Tuesday. Murray recently met with Portland Mayor Charlie Hales to discuss how their cities are grappling with homelessness. Elsewhere, cities are trying out the model of Dignity Village. In Eugene, Oregon, Opportunity Village has lifted the concept wholesale. Like Dignity Village, it is mostly self-governed, its residents are required to adhere to the same five rules, and tiny homes dot its landscape.

Heben, whose book Tent City Urbanism frequently cites Dignity Village as a model for sustainable housing for the homeless, says there are a few key differences between the two, pointing to one in particular: Dignity Village allows its residents to be members of their nonprofit entity, which can lead to logistical challenges. In contrast, Opportunity Village is overseen by a separate board consisting of residents, clergy, and other community members.

What the residents of these communities hold in common are the bonds forged from shared experience—of finally finding a welcome environment after being discarded and stigmatized by larger society. Lisa Larson can easily recall the day she first became homeless. The event shares an anniversary with her decision to finally leave an abusive husband after years of emotional and physical turmoil.

Larson spent two years camping out on concrete sidewalks and inside abandoned buildings. Another homeless person there spoke about a place where people not only were treated with respect, but were instilled with a sense of pride and community. With my new husband and Dignity Village, I am somebody. I am a domestic violence survivor. Now certain of both, Larson has found not just shelter but peace and purpose that until six years ago eluded her.

The homeless population in Portland has steadily increased since even while national rates have dropped by 11 percent during the same period. The city estimates that 4, men, women, and children are without shelter most nights in Multnomah County. The city has at least 17 dedicated shelters for the homeless.

One of its newest, the eight-story Bud Clark Commons, was built by the city in June and houses about people. The dilemma has forced city officials to consider new approaches and revisit old ones that have proved successful. One has been its partnership with Dignity Village, which began three years after the village officially became a nonprofit in December Besides granting public land, the city provides funding for a dedicated social worker, Mays, to help members with job searches, writing, and transportation to medical and counseling appointments.

Mays also functions as a liaison to the city. The city has imposed rules, such as the two-year limit on how long a resident can stay, for example. Many Dignity Village members would prefer no interaction with the city, Proudfoot says, because they find its system too bureaucratic and hard to navigate, which they blame for leaving many of them to sleep on the pavement prior to become villagers.

Officials, meanwhile, view the village as transitional housing, wanting people to stay there only as long as it takes them to find permanent residences. When subsidized units do become available, people most often are required to compete in a lottery for them. The shortage also extends to rental units, prices for which have risen at the sixth fastest rate in the nation. Alpert says the city is attempting to try some innovative ideas, including replicating the village, because it is one of the best and cheapest bets to curb homelessness, at least for now.

He notes a problem with creating another Dignity Village is trying to find land close to social services and public transportation for its population. Proudfoot, an electrician, became a casualty of an economic collapse that saw millions lose homes, jobs, and accumulated wealth.

Unable to find work in the midst of it all, he fell into poverty after burning through his savings. While he has left and returned to the village several times, he will always feel an attachment to it, which is why he wants to be the architect of its future. One day, he says, the village will be a truly intentional community: completely self-governed, self-managed, and self-funded by and for its residents.

Proudfoot, for one, hopes that in time the village will become known for more than just its tiny homes. And members look forward to the day when a tour of Dignity Village will take place on land collectively owned by its residents. Why you can trust us. By Marcus Harrison Green. Jan 28, Connect: Twitter. Reprints and reposts: YES! Magazine encourages you to make free use of this article by taking these easy steps.

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Tiny Portland women having sex

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In a Tiny House Village, Portland’s Homeless Find Dignity