By CORY ELIA
Since its creation in 2018, the Portland State University‘s Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative has dove headfirst into research and advocacy work centered around better approaches to handling the houselessness situation in Portland and abroad.
Several graduate students projects were presented for the HRAC at PSU’s Native American Student and Community Center on Thursday, October 10th.
Stefanie Knowlton, a communications specialist with the center, introduced the speakers. “Research only matters or matters most when it reaches people,” Knowlton stated “We want people to understand and care about the effort to prevent and solve homelessness on our campus and in our community,” she went on to say that the research presented at the event is meant to inspire others to do similar work. She then introduced Dr. Marisa Zapata.
Hear more from Zapata on Elia’s podcast Tripp-p:
Before giving her speech, Dr. Zapata acknowledged the local tribes which inhabited the land that PSU occupies, and asking for a moment of silence out of respect for them. The entire room went silent to honor Zapata’s request.
Zapata recently published a study that shows that there are possibly as many as 38,000 people in the tri-county area who could be classifiable as living in an unstable housing situation or houseless.
“We want to acknowledge the significant disparities particular those experienced by native, black, and homeless today are intrinsically linked to those tragedies”. She also spoke on #Disarm PSU and how the decision was made to continue arming PSU Campus Public Safety officers “despite the number of black men murdered by police each year and the outcry by students and faculty of color as well as those who work with unhoused people to remove those guns.”
She went on to say, “it has been an amazing year, the Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative was started about a year ago” and shared that at the beginning of its formation she was nervous, how the creation of the center was sudden, and its launching quickly announced with a press conference.
She further went into detail that the HRAC has been working with the Dean of Student Life and has been awarded a STEP grant which “will provide more access to food for our students” and that the new student / faculty / employee homelessness study will inform the need for that and is the first study of its kind that has been done nationwide.
“Our hope is with this kind of study and knowledge we’ll be able to explain to people better the needs of our students and staff,” and that it was created to “lift the messages of struggle that people are really trying to endure in order to complete their studies and to be a part of the PSU community.”
Zapata shared that Todd Ferry, a director with the center and professor of Architecture, is holding a village model design exhibit in Alaska. He spoke about what it was like working on these projects with students. After thanking all the students for their work, she introduced the different research and projects that have been done at the center.
Kenton Women’s Village
The first presenter for the event was Marta Petteni, who is with the Center for Public interestand design along with Emily Leickly, a Community Psychology graduate student who shared their experiences and lessons learned from working on the Kenton Women’s Village project.
Pettini kicked off the presentation by stating, “today we are going to present Kenton’s Women’s Village 1.0 and 2.0 as well as the findings from surveying of residents from the 2.0 phase.” She went on to say that PSU’s work with “the Portland local villages started back in late 2015 when a public emergency was declared and it was estimated there were about 4,000 people on the streets during any given night.”
She shared that several ideas including transitioning a warehouse were suggested but that advocates and those with the lived experience of houselessness described that as “a nightmare scenario, like an internment camp” and that this led to the work in designing the villages. She went into detail about how the center for public interest and design started working with the Village Coalition [no relation to Village Portland].
Editorial note: In the spirit of full disclosure, the writer of this article is a board member of the Village Coalition volunteering in a media advisory role.
Pettini went into detail about the difference between a pod home, which is used in the villages and a tiny house that has become a popular living choose. “Pods are different from tiny houses because they are not on wheels and it is under 100 sq. ft.” and that the villages and the pods could fill the gap between being houseless and getting sheltered.
“Villages are able to take advantage of un-utilized land”, she explained. In 2016, the process for starting the design of the pods began, and that 14 teams designed their own pods for the Women’s Village along with 21 different construction firms that helped with the construction.
“When the city identified the site in Kenton as a potential site we began working with the neighborhood association and brought them into the design process,” and that when it was approved they partnered with several different city governmental, like the Joint Office of Homeless Services, and non-profit organizations, like the Village Coalition, to get it built. The Kenton’s Women’s Village Project also inspired the Clackamas Veterans Village Project.
According to the nine residents of the village who participated in their survey at the time they came to the village they had been houseless on average about five years before coming to the village and only lived there transitionally about two and a half months.
According to Leickly, who presented their findings, seven of the women housed at Kenton’s had at least a high school diploma and five of them had college degrees. She also shared that the residents who participated in the survey were satisfied with the quality of their pods and the general living situation in the village.Read more…