What if there was a form of shelter that was much less expensive than housing and more private, comfortable and mobile than living on the street?
“Our intent is to develop an ‘over-the-grid’ community of zoning ninjas inhabiting a new type of mobile home.”
Portland nonprofit POD the People thinks they have a solution that will empower lower-income people and, “Make mobile micro-housing available to all.” “Our intent is to develop an ‘over-the-grid’ community of zoning ninjas inhabiting a new type of mobile home,” reads the group’s website.
POD is short for Portland Opportunity Dwelling™, a concept based on a three-wheeled, electric motor-home that aims to be legally classified as a light electric vehicle/bicycle.
POD the People Director Jeffrey Hood recently got in touch with BikePortland because he and his team are ready to build prototype and is looking for a contractor. If you or your company has experience, “producing custom assemblies for bicycles and pedal-operated vehicles” POD the People wants to hear from you. They’ve issued a request for quotations (RFQ) that will stay open until February 19th.
Hood is a Reed College graduate with a masters in urban planning from UC Berkeley. He’s also a Certified Adult Mental Health Peer Support Specialist who previously worked for the San Francisco County Transportation Authority where he created a simulation model for counting bike traffic via a mobile app. His idea for the POD came during a road trip in the summer of 2016. That’s when he met artist Kathryn Lowry and community organizer Tom Truong. “Tom wanted to try living in the ‘nomad bicycle camper’ that he saw in a video by Paul Elkins,” Hood shared in an email to BikePortland. “When we returned to Portland, we built the camper from Paul’s plans.”
Truong lived in the trailer for a few months. But a harsh winter in 2017 forced the need for a heating solution, which led to fire safety concerns, which took Truong and Hood down the path that ultimately led to POD the People.
The organization is currently led by Hood, Rachel Kessler, and Michael McCloskey. Hood says they’re in need of volunteers to help on many facets of the project. Once they have a buildable design, the distribution model will be based on collaborative partnerships. Eligible customers (the focus is on people under the poverty line) will be given the option to build a POD themselves. Depending on how much money a person has, they might be able to completely offset the cost by building their own POD.
“This arrangement will not only make PODs more accessible to those in need,” Hood says. “Personally-invested participants will also develop vocational skills and experience greater success in maintaining their PODs.”
The legality of a lightweight, human-electric-powered vehicle that is intended to be used as housing is still a bit murky. Hood said it’s “An evolving area of the law” but he is confident the ultimate design will not run afoul of any laws.
“Regardless of how the specifics shake out,” Hood added. “We will remain steadfast in our purpose — to empower the poor by making mobile micro-housing available to all.”
The POD design reminds us of the infamous “motorhome” bike built by Brian Campbell. Campbell was a nomadic and enigmatic character who first blew into Portland on his amazing bicycle house in 2006. A year later the community rallied around Campbell to help him rebuild his vehicle. He stayed around Portland a few more years and at one point hoped to mass-produce and sell his vehicle to others.
POD the People is taking a much more formal approach. And given the urgent need for innovative shelter and housing solutions in Portland, it will be interesting to see how this evolves.
If you’d like to learn more, donate, or volunteer to make PODs a reality, check out PODthePeople.org.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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