NEWS RELEASE: Multnomah County Board approves design plan, funding for Montavilla tiny home shelter on S.E. 82nd Avenue

April 11, 2024

Presenters from the Joint Office of Homeless Services provided information on the shelter, including (from left) Austin Van Nette, Rory Cuddyer, Andrea Matthews and Dan Field, the department's director.
The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners today voted 3-1 to approve the site design for the Joint Office of Homeless Services' Montavilla Community Village, a key milestone for constructing the long-planned alternative-style shelter on S.E. 82nd Avenue in Portland. The board also voted 3-1 to approve capital funding for the project.

And in another vote today, the Board unanimously approved construction funding needed for the St. Johns Day Center, a drop-in service center planned to open in St. Johns in late 2024.

The Montavilla Community Village will be located on the lot of a former RV dealership at 333 S.E. 82nd Ave. and will provide 29 tiny homes with a capacity to serve up to 40 people experiencing homelessness. The project responds to the critical need for safe and supportive shelter options as more permanent affordable housing options come online.

“Moving more people off the street and into pathways to housing has been my priority — and I know a priority of this board — since day one,” said Chair Jessica Vega Pederson. “Increasing shelter beds and improving the efficacy of those beds continues to be my focus, and this shelter will provide safety off the streets and 29 shelter pods for people and couples who would otherwise sleep in their vehicles.”

The Montavilla Community Village, which will be staffed 24/7 by contracted provider Straightway Services, will prioritize serving individuals transitioning from passenger vehicles into permanent housing, providing them with wraparound services on-site. Additionally, the site will offer hygiene facilities, laundry services, storage and a kitchenette, ensuring that residents have access to essential amenities and resources.

The Joint Office will also be following robust safety protocols, including 24-hour supervision and clear communication channels for neighbors, to ensure that the village operates in harmony with the surrounding community.

The board votes today approved the site design for the project, which allows the Joint Office to move forward with permitting and constructing the shelter, as well as $2.3 million in capital funding for the project.

Chair Vega Pederson, Commissioner Julia Brim-Edwards and Commissioner Lori Stegmann voted in favor of both the site design and capital funding. Commissioner Sharon Meieran voted against both board items, and Commissioner Jesse Beason was not present at the meeting.

Project vote follows months of community engagement with Montavilla neighbors

In August 2022, Multnomah County acquired the property that will become the shelter for $2.25 million. Provider Straightway Services was selected as the shelter operator in 2023 following a Notice of Funding Availability. Throughout, the Joint Office has engaged in community outreach with neighborhood residents, businesses and faith communities.

The Joint Office of Homeless Services recently held two community meetings with Montavilla residents to answer questions about the project and provide opportunities for feedback. Pictured is the meeting on April 3, 2024.
Originally, the Board had planned to vote on the site design of the Montavilla shelter in December 2023. But in coordination with Chair Vega Pederson and Commissioner Brim-Edwards — whose district includes the shelter — the Joint Office delayed the vote to allow time for more comprehensive community engagement in the neighborhood.

Community members had opportunities to weigh in on the site design, discuss services, and address concerns about potential impacts during two recent community meetings. Additionally, the Joint Office has sent mailers throughout the neighborhood about the project and engagement opportunities, created an emailed newsletter providing updates on the project, set up a dedicated email address for people to share feedback and questions, and built a regularly updated FAQ webpage.

The Joint Office will continue working with the community over the coming months to develop and finalize a Good Neighbor Agreement before the shelter opens.

“Today we approved the beginning of construction but the County’s and provider’s work in the community is ongoing,” said Chair Vega Pederson. “My expectation is that a good neighbor agreement is in place before the program opens, and that the agreement is developed in strong partnership with the neighborhood.”

Commissioner Julia Brim-Edwards said she was supportive of the shelter, which is located in her district, but urged continued community engagement and the creation of a Good Neighbor Agreement.
Commissioner Brim-Edwards thanked the Montavilla neighbors for their engagement in the project, and the Joint Office for “tapping the brakes” on the project to allow for more meaningful engagement with the community and for its commitment to co-create a Good Neighbor Agreement with the community.

“Working with community members, businesses and neighbors to co-create a framework for expectations for county operations of a shelter site in the form of a Good Neighbor Agreement is, for me, essential for success,” Brim-Edwards said. “There are a lot of people in Montavilla who want to be engaged in the process and understand the work who care about their unhoused neighbors.”

“It’s critical that Multnomah County and the neighborhood work together as it’s the only way to ensure the success and sustainability of the site and expansion of other shelter sites by the County.”

Joint Office Director Field said the goal is for the shelter to be an asset that integrates into the neighborhood and is in line with the community’s values. “We want to move us all toward a solution that addresses the humanity and needs of all concerned, whether you’re a homeowner, a renter, a business owner or somebody sleeping on the street,” Field said. “Our goal is to positively impact people in the neighborhood.”

Montavilla residents spoke at the meeting, including supportive testimony from local faith leaders.

Rev. Heather Riggs, Pastor of Montavilla United Methodist Church, said that providing services and shelter for people experiencing homelessness in Montavilla would improve conditions for the neighborhood if it’s done in partnership with the community. “We urge you to fully fund this project,” Riggs said. “Our community in Montavilla is experiencing such a high density of houseless neighbors that many in our community feel unsafe. We are experiencing all kinds of trash, human waste, property damage, and just the moral injury of watching our neighbors be soaked in the rain, be freezing in freezing weather, and having nowhere to go.”

Shelter fits into larger strategy for expanding shelter

The shelter, which is planned to be completed before the end of 2024, is one step toward accomplishing the goals of the Homelessness Response Action Plan and the Joint Office’s Community Sheltering Strategy. In the sheltering strategy, the County and City of Portland committed to opening 1,000 additional shelter beds over the next two years — including the 29 beds planned for the Montavilla Community Village.

The Multnomah County Board approved the proposed site plan for the Montavilla Community Village, which will provide 29 tiny home pods for people experiencing homelessness.
The Montavilla Community Village will also be the latest in a series of village-style alternative shelters developed and opened by the Joint Office in partnership with service providers.

That list includes the current Kenton Women’s Village, the St. Johns Village, Beacon Village, and Parkrose Village. The Joint Office also helped create and sustain the Queer Affinity Village and BIPOC Village shelters, which are now part of the the City of Portland’s Safe Rest Village program.

While the initial plans for the Montavilla Community Village were developed before the Community Sheltering Strategy, Chair Vega Pederson highlighted that the strategy will allow for a more strategic and efficient expansion of shelter beds going forward.

“The sheltering strategy gets us into a much different place than where we were a year ago. These opportunities are going to come, and we want to understand that they are fitting into an overall plan that we have,” Chair Vega Pederson said.

Board approves funding for St. Johns Day Center

The Board also approved a $500,000 budget modification that provides the Joint Office of Homeless Services the capital funding needed to move forward with its plans for the St. Johns Day Center, a drop-in space that will provide peer support and service navigation for people experiencing homelessness. It is among several investments first approved last fall by the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners to create or expand day center services. 

The St. Johns Day Center, expected to open in late 2024, will be located at 9000 N. Lombard St. in a vacant retail space that’s part of Multnomah County’s North Portland Health Center. Contracted provider Do Good Multnomah will operate the site.

Services at the day center will include case management, housing navigation assistance, hygiene services including laundry and showers, limited meals, and mailing address services.

Joint Office Director Field highlighted that the plans for the day center resulted from calls from the local community for increased services in the St. Johns neighborhood for people experiencing homelessness. “That doesn’t mean that everybody is in unanimous support, but means there has been strong community investment from early on,” Field said.

The Joint Office and Do Good Multnomah will be continuing their community engagement with the neighborhood in the lead-up to the opening of the day center.