Please note: For those needing housing assistance related to the Kenton Women’s Village, Catholic Charities recommends you visit their drop-in center weekdays 10am-1pm at 2740 SE Powell. The drop-in staff can assess folks for the Kenton Women’s Village waiting list as well as other housing options. You can also contact the village at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503.688.2632.
What is the Kenton Women’s Village (KWV)?
The Kenton Women’s Village, first known as the POD Village, was originally a limited duration pilot project approved by the neighborhood for up to 14 homeless female-identified people to each house a micro-housing sleeping pod designed by local architecture firms on a transitional basis in a village-style community with oversight and ongoing support from a contracted non-profit, Catholic Charities.
The KNA held a neighborhood-wide vote on the project at the General Meeting on March 8th of 2017 where the village was overwhelmingly approved by the neighborhood for one year. The KWV officially opened that June.
In June of 2018, the KNA held a 2nd vote with near unanimous approval to grant the KWV up to another year of operation.
In the late summer of 2018, plans were revealed to move the KWV to a nearby location and establish it as a permanent project with better infrastructure and increased capacity.
Where is the site for the Village?
The first site of the KWV was 2221 N Argyle St. That property was owned by Prosper Portland, previously known as the Portland Development Commission. Prosper Portland approved a deal to sell the land to Transition Projects Inc. (TPI) for them to develop a low-income housing project on the site. That deal had been in the works prior to the advent of the KWV, and that project was completed in 2020.
The KWV currently resides at 2420 N Columbia Blvd, which just down N Argyle from the first location. This land is owned by the Bureau of Environmental Services and isn’t eligible for commercial development due to its use for sewer lines.
Is there any documentation?
Who is organizing this project?
The KWV is publicly funded by the Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS) with Catholic Charities (CC) being contracted to provide property and case management for the KWV. Community partners have included Portland State University’s Center for Public Interest Design (CPID), ReBuilding Center, City Repair, the KNA and Kenton Business Association (KBA).
What infrastructure and services are included in this village?
Besides the dwelling units for single occupancy, the following services are offered:
- Use of a small transitional dwelling
- Permanent housing placement assistance
- Shared food storage, preparation, and dining facilities
- Shared facilities for toilets, sanitation, and hygiene
- Regular trash collection
- A mailbox and address
- Community meetings and social events
- Conflict resolution, including mediation
- On-site leadership development and educational programming, including proactive systems for building affinity and collaboration
- Integrated case management
- Addiction treatment referrals
- Mental health treatment referrals
- Smoking cessation support
How is this governed?
Beyond CC being the administrative and fiscal services provider, the village mostly uses a self-governance model comprised of a general assembly of residents, resident stewards, staff liaisons from CC and a trained crisis intervention team.
Is the village working?
While the KWV as a pilot project has had its share of trials and tribulations as organizers worked through various hurdles, the project has been very successful in meeting its main goal of transitioning residents to permanent housing.
Based on numbers from early 2018, of 24 former and current KWV residents, 14 women have already moved from the village into permanent housing with the assistance of Catholic Charities case managers.
“It’s a journey for each of them,” says Margie Dechenne, program manager at Catholic Charities Housing Transitions Program. “The secret sauce in this is the sisterhood they have found, the friendships, the ability to be safe and secure, to engage with our case managers, and to contribute back to their community. They are so very grateful to the Kenton neighborhood for this opportunity.”
The average age of the villagers is 47.5, and the average time they had been homeless is 4.5 years with a range of 1 to 20 years.
Before joining the KWV:
- 18 women had no reliable transportation
- 10 had no personal identification
- 6 had no way to receive a phone call
- 19 had no regular income
- 7 had no health insurance
- 16 had significant interactions with hospitals, emergency rooms, and ambulance transports
- 16 reported not going for medical treatment when they felt ill
- 20 reported having serious health issues
Since joining the KWV:
- 20 receive monthly bus passes
- 15 have personal identification
- 6 have received free phones
- 12 are enrolled in benefits programs
- 5 are receiving financial wellness coaching
- 7 are enrolled in Rent Well curriculum
- 3 are enrolled in a financial match saving program
- 100 % have enrolled in health insurance and have a primary care doctor with student nurses from the University of Portland also visiting twice per week
- 1 has visited a hospital’s emergency department
- 0 ambulance calls
How did KNA handle approving the project originally in early 2017?
The KNA was informed of the project in early December of 2016 and made the project known publicly via social media, e-news, website, news media, etc. when written documentation of the proposal was received.
Besides reaching out to neighbors, the KNA formed an ad hoc committee based on neighborhood feedback to work with and provide input to the project organizers to further develop the proposal. This committee met multiple times, looking at topics like site planning, good neighbor agreement and village rules.
In an endorsed open letter sent to project organizers, the KNA Board reasoned that the board “needs additional and more clearly defined specifics along with the opportunity to better inform and engage our neighborhood’s residents in order to make a statement on this proposal.”
Project organizers stated that this project wouldn’t move forward without the neighborhood’s support. Hence, the KNA held a neighborhood-wide vote on the project at the General Meeting on March 8th, 2017, where the village was overwhelmingly approved by the neighborhood.
What was the relocation process?
With TPI moving forward, the KWV was no longer be able to use its current site after January, 2019, so JOHS decided to move the KWV to 2420 N Columbia Blvd and establish it as a permanent project.
The relocated KWV rolled out in two phases on city-owned land that isn’t eligible for commercial development with work beginning in the fall of 2018. Using the same transitional housing model, the KWV now features 20 micro-housing sleeping pods, 6 or so of which being reused from the original site, and improved community facilities and infrastructure like running water, sewer and electricity.
Why isn’t the relocated KWV subject to neighborhood approval?
JOHS made the decision that the KWV wouldn’t be subject to neighborhood approval if it were to become a long-term project with significant public investment. This decision was not subject to any discussion with the KNA and/or public.
Did the KNA know the move to 2420 N Columbia Blvd was coming?
While JOHS had stated that they were looking for sites for villages across the city, the KNA had never been provided any specifics and assumed the project would come to a conclusion as was originally intended. After a period of silence from organizers of the KWV once TPI had announced they were moving forward, the KNA pressured organizers of the KWV to have a meeting in August, 2018. CC was given permission by the city to tell the KNA that JOHS was looking at moving the KWV to 2420 N Columbia Blvd. The KNA went public with that information a few days later when JOHS provided the KNA with a written statement.
What’s the current status of the KWV?
Due to COVID-19, only 15 residents are allowed in the village at one time. Those from the Kenton neighborhood receive priority placement.
Current villagers are staying warm because the Kenton neighborhood stepped up and funded the purchase of 22 specially certified heaters to cover the entire village. The relocated site also provides villagers with better exterior lighting, water and sewer service and electrified pods.
Where did the new pods come from?
14 new sleeping pods were needed to bring the KWV up to 20 units. 6 pods deemed acceptable for continued use from the 2221 N Argyle St site were moved over to the new site while the other original pods were tagged for deconstruction.
An effort, called the Pod Build Challenge, was organized by the Andersen Construction and the contractor community to donate time and materials to build new pods between February and March, 2019.
Pods were built by:
• Andersen Construction
• Associated General Contractors Oregon-Columbia Chapter
• BC Custom Homes
• Bremik Construction sponsoring Constructing Hope
• Builders FirstSource
• DR Horton
• Legend Homes sponsoring Professional Women in Building
• LMC Construction
• O’Neill/Walsh Community Builders
• P&C Construction
• R&H Construction
• The ReBuilding Center
• Stephens Homes sponsoring Professional Women in Building
• Turner Construction Company
Where can I learn more, donate and/or get involved?
Please head to the official website for the Kenton’s Women’s Village for more information on the village, donating and volunteering.
Additional engagement opportunities will be posted as they become available.
Who can I contact?
For inquires regarding the KWV, please contact Catholic Charities at email@example.com or 503.688.2632.