Of Sleeping Pods, Hard Tents, And Simple Human Decency

With an estimated 5,000 homeless living in Portland and 2,000 sleeping on the streets on any given night, Portland’s housing crisis has created headlines, headaches and heart ache. It’s also generated a lot of creative energy and good will that’s starting to have a real impact.

The ReBuilding Center has long provided materials to the villages around Portland’s inner core – Dignity Village and Right to Dream Too (R2D2) come to mind. Last fall, Hazelnut Grove (located below the Overlook Neighborhood on Greeley Avenue) began accessing building materials from the ReBuilding Center. That’s when Tom Patzkowski, the ReBuilding Center's Store Manager, asked if the villages ever got together to compare notes and collaborate with each other. That simple question led to bi-weekly gatherings at the ReBuilding Center, fed by free food donated by Mississippi Pizza.

The informal gatherings grew. City officials came to interact with the villages. Service providers came too. More pizza was ordered. The simple gathering came to name itself the Village Coalition. And today, it is a movement, with support from the City, service providers, and the private sector. And with 501(c)(3) status in the offing, many good things are planned for 2017.

But some terrific things have happened already. Architects and planners have developed multiple designs for 8’x6', 8’x8’, and ‘8x10’ sleeping pods. This fall, funded by members of the private sector, including the Olshin Family Trust and Lowe’s, a build was organized. Four pods were built at a lot in Northwest Portland. You can see a video of that build here: 

The four “hard tents,” as they are designated by the City of Portland, were completed here at the ReBuilding Center with volunteers from TIVNU, National Urban Housing, Oregon Tradeswomen, and Constructing Hope. In a very exciting development, the City of Portland passed a resolution in October allowing religious institutions to host up to four of the hard tents on their properties. Shortly thereafter, two of the pods were set up at Congregation Beth Israel as a model for other congregations. One of the pods was delivered to Hazelnut Grove the day after Thanksgiving, an event that was captured by KGW and can be viewed here:

And, in early December, the Full Holy Ghost Mission Church of God on Killingsworth will take delivery of the fourth pod.

But with 2,000 people sleeping on the streets every night, four pods barely scratch the surface. So, a group led by City Repair, PSU’s Center for Public Interest Design, the ReBuilding Center, and Open Archiecture have organized a build of 14 pods, which should be completed by the end of the year. According to Mark Lakeman, one of the leaders of this build, “This is one of the most exciting initiatives we’ve ever been involved with. It signals the emergence of the ReBuilding Center as an increasingly active member of the community and brings together some of the leading architects to address one of our community’s most pressing concerns.”

Andy Olshin has even bigger dreams: organizing the community to build 100 pods in 2017. Said Olshin, “I want to see how we can build community while we’re building community.” The ReBuilding Center hopes to have one of these 100 pods under construction at the store all year long. Volunteers are welcome!

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This gorgeous pod features a floor made from a bowling alley lane. Built by TIVNU, it was painted by Loki, the future occupant, who can be seen in the photo above. Loki, and her pod, now live at Hazelnut Grove. Says Loki of her new home: “Never felt more at home."


In other Rebuilding Center tiny home news, we spoke with Linda Pope from Portland Community College about the tiny home project that she worked on with her students.

Linda says that the tiny home project came to her by chance, when money was offered to her and her students during a faculty meeting. Linda had no building experience before starting the project, but learned through working as a team and “figuring it out as [they] went." Linda likes working with salvaged materials because it saves the planet by using materials gleaned from older structures. From working with the Rebuilding Center, Linda is most impressed with the amazing staff and the treasures she and her students find when they visit the store. Ultimately, she likes the feeling of accomplishment that she gets at the end of the day from building homes for those in need and collaborating with her students. Linda shared that she wishes that “every town had a ReBuilding Center. It is an essential part of our future!”