PSU unveils finding of two-year study on pod-style villages

Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 6:34 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Researchers at Portland State University have released the findings of a two-year study that examined the effectiveness and impact of tiny, pod-style villages for people experiencing homelessness.

The report, released Tuesday, claims to be one of the first of its kind in the nation and was spearheaded by PSU’s Homeless Research and Action Collaborative.

Researchers say the report also serves as a best-practice and how-to-guide for setting up the villages for success.

As part of the study, researchers conducted interviews at six tiny-home, “pod-style” villages in Portland, including one in Clackamas.

Village residents, managers and neighbors were interviewed as part of the study and more than 2,000 community members were also surveyed.

According to PSU, some of the findings include that the more input and control that residents have about their life in the village, they happier they are living there.

The study found that nearly 90 percent of villagers surveyed were satisfied with their living pod and nearly 70 percent also were satisfied with the village they lived in.

The report also found that the sweet spot for village size was about twenty to thirty people.

Neighbor attitudes and feelings toward the villages were also included in the study.

PSU said among those surveyed, most neighbors who had initial concerns about a tiny-home village opening near them were no longer worried after the villages opened.

“They were opposed to villages in Hazelnut Grove and Kenton Women’s Village,” said Center Director Marisa Zapata. “They’ve come so far to the other side that they’ve come to other neighborhoods to advocate for the creation of villages.”

“Seeing people come out in support and educating people about why villages are powerful, why they’re good, what they do and they aren’t these terrifying spaces that people tend to imagine,” Zapata added.

Fox 12 spoke with several neighbors near Kenton Women’s Village on Tuesday – all of them supportive of the village and program.

Beverly Swan said she’s lived near the village for years and says she’s been very impressed.

“People who say they don’t want this in my neighborhood, how do you feel walking by countless homeless people and say, ‘not in my neighborhood?”’

PSU researchers said that some concerning disparities also emerged from the study.

Researchers found that the villages disproportionately serve white men. Only 17 percent of villagers identified as a person of color, the report found, despite the findings that 40 percent of the houseless community is BIPOC.

The study also found that people living in the villages still struggle with food insecurity.

FOX 12 reached out to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office regarding the results of the study but did not hear back.

A spokesman for the Joint Office of Homeless Services sent Fox 12 this statement:

“We’re committed to accountability and learning, and it meant a lot to us that the study included some of the village-style shelters we’ve added in recent years,” said Deputy Communications Director Denis Theriault, in an email.

“We appreciate the validation that there’s a role for this kind of shelter in our larger system -- as we’ve expanded shelter during COVID, it was important that we keep striving to meet people where they are. And there are lessons that can also help us do better. The study also called out the need for continued, intentional work to ensure villages -- and, frankly, our entire continuum of services -- are culturally responsive. That is a commitment we must continue to build on.”