Portland considers plan to build shed-like sleep ‘pods’ at homeless camps

The city plans to open 6 mass homeless camps in the next 3 years.
Wheeler answers questions on homeless crisis, city plan at NE Portland town hall
Wheeler answers questions on homeless crisis, city plan at NE Portland town hall(KPTV)
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 1:36 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - The City of Portland Portland is planning to upgrade the facilities of its homeless camps by replacing tents with “sleeping pods,” which the city will fund with state funds.

“Tents will work,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said Tuesday at a virtual town hall. “But if we can also find a quick way to fund and deliver pods — that would certainly be an improvement, from my perspective.”

Wheeler has focused on a plan to build six large outdoor camps that will allow him to reduce, and eventually eliminate, homeless camping in all public spaces.

However, a spokesperson for the governor confirmed that sleeping pods may be eligible for state funding. Wheeler’s spokesperson, Cody Bowman, said the city is looking into pods as well as other options.

SEE ALSO: Governor sets expectations for Portland mayor on homeless funds

Actor Danny Trejo, left, talks to Faith Pennington, a homeless woman living in a tiny homes...
Actor Danny Trejo, left, talks to Faith Pennington, a homeless woman living in a tiny homes community while volunteering in the annual homeless count in the North Hollywood section of Los Angeles Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. Thousands of clipboard-toting volunteers with the LA Homeless Services Authority fanned out across the county Tuesday night for the effort's main component, the unsheltered street tally. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)(Marcio Jose Sanchez | AP)

“We hope to have a role in deciding where these funds are directed,” Bowman said. “We will advocate that investments go toward the mayor’s temporary alternative shelter sites if eligible.”

The Portland City Council set aside $27 million for a year to build and operate three of the six tent sites, including plans to hire homeless outreach workers and fund the city office that cleans the encampments. The city plans to build an additional three camps within the next two years.

Los Angeles has opened a few of these tiny home villages, with the non-profits behind the construction of one of the villages also involved in talks with Portland.

Tiny houses for veterans in Chatham County, Georgia.
Tiny houses for veterans in Chatham County, Georgia.(WTOC)

Wheeler admitted that the city alone cannot fund the plan and that assistance from the county, regional government, and state lawmakers is required. The current plan has approximately 82% support from city residents, but it also has similar support for a citywide camping ban.

Some homeless advocates argue that a mass encampment plan would be a waste of money and resources, as well as endangering or traumatizing residents.

Portland has previously investigated the use of pods, with a Portland State University study published last year finding that residents were “largely satisfied” with their accommodations, but food security remained a significant issue.

The study also found that neighbors living next to pod-based villages grew less concerned about them over time, saying that “most neighbors who reported concerns… when they first learned of villages being located in their neighborhood reported no longer having those concerns after living near the village.”

The oldest and longest-running community of “tiny house” or pod villages in the county, Dignity Village, was established in 2000 and has “about 60 villagers at any given time.” The village costs around $33,000 per year and has 45 pods, according to the study.

Toddy Ferry, lead writer and researcher on the report, argued that the structure alone is not enough to deal with the problem, and that the government needs to “really think about the social infrastructure and its impacts.”

“While self-governance might not be possible in all cases, thinking about how to build an agency can be hugely impactful,” Ferry told Oregon Public Broadcasting in an interview.

He acknowledged that the villages provoke “a reaction from neighbors,” but said that “we shouldn’t give so much attention to how neighbors feel about it” since many seem to change their opinion over time.


Peter Aitken with Fox News Digital contributed to this report.