For the past two years Dignity Village, an acre of tents, gardens, and trailers with 65 residents in Portland, Oregon, has provided a safe homeland for the city's homeless population. Dignity Village has achieved considerable success getting homeless people off the streets, but now faces the challenges that come with the spotlight and the need to live up to a lofty original vision, writes Nick Budnick in Wilamette Week.
Dignity Village gained city approval in 1999 by convincing
Portland to reverse its ban on camping within city limits.
Dignity's vision has led to donations of money, mountain bikes, a
bus, and seeds, and the community is now hoping to secure a
permanent location to establish itself. Yet, despite its
achievements, the problems persist. Drug use and drinking continue,
as does some physical altercations, and there have been
difficulties maintaining fair leadership. Some feel that the
community should be restricted to those in most desperate need, and
other worry that the residents are 'stagnating.' The computers are
used to play solitaire and cribbage instead of for job searches. 'I
was na?ve,' says Bryan Pollard, who helped create Dignity. 'People
who are housed and have reasonably stable lives are not able to
live in a healthy communal way - so how dare we expect society's
most traumatized, most abused and most injured to do it?'