Video from July 2021 riding past the location of a future Safe Rest Village. The village would be on the right side in this view.
“My hope is that the attention and services required to manage a Safe Rest Village will also translate to managing unsanctioned camps elsewhere along the Peninsula Crossing.”
— Jim Sjulin, retired Portland Parks planner and trail advocate
Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan announced the locations of four new Safe Rest Village on Thursday. Ryan is in charge of Portland’s housing and homeless services bureaus and has a big role to play in Mayor Ted Wheeler’s ratcheting-up of emergency powers to address the “humanitarian crisis on our streets.”
One of the village locations is a 62,250 square-foot parcel of land adjacent to the Peninsula Crossing Trail, a mutli-use path that’s part of the 40-Mile Loop that provides a carfree connection between N Willamette Blvd and N Columbia Blvd. The new Safe Rest Village location is just north of the Willamette Blvd entrance of N Princeton Street. Some advocates see a city-sanctioned and managed camp as an improvement over current conditions.
This area has been home to an established encampment of Portlanders for a long time. There are many people living in different locations all along the one-mile path. In November 2020 we reported that the City of Portland had the Peninsula Crossing Trail on a list targeted for debris removal. And in May 2020 we shared a letter to city officials from four north Portland neighborhood associations who were concerned about the rise in homelessness. In that letter, neighborhood leaders pushed for more sanctioned camps similar to what Commissioner Ryan has in store with the Save Rest Villages.
In an announcement yesterday, Ryan said the new villages will be, “Managed, temporary, outdoor shelters with onsite case management, peer support, behavioral and mental health services, as well as amenities such as showers, flush toilets, laundry, trash/recycling, and community gathering spaces.”
That’s good news to trail advocate Jim Sjulin. Sjulin is a retired Portland Parks & Recreation natural areas and trails manager who also sits on the board of the 40-Mile Loop Land Trust, a nonprofit that wants to complete a 150-mile trail system around the region (you might recall his work on closing gaps in the Marine Drive bike path).
The Peninsula Crossing Trail is the only carfree connection to the 40-Mile Loop on the entire north Portland peninsula.
“Unfortunately,” Sjulin says, “due to the presence of camps and concerns about personal safety, most people will not use the Peninsula Crossing Trail today.” Speaking only for himself because 40-Mile Loop hasn’t made an official statement yet, Sjulin added that, “The sheer number of camps, the litter, the needles, and the number of people literally camping on the trail is overwhelming, intimidating, and heartbreaking.”
If the new managed camp changes those conditions, Sjulin supports the Safe Rest Village at this location.
“My hope is that the attention and services required to manage a Safe Rest Village will also translate to managing unsanctioned camps elsewhere along the Peninsula Crossing,” he said. “If that happens, it would be perceived as much safer than it is today and people could once again use the trail as intended.”
— Learn more about the Safe Rest Village program on the city’s website.