A group of volunteers in Portland has taken it upon themselves to prepare Kenton Village for 14 homeless women. Starting Saturday, June 10, these women will live in small houses and share community living duties as they work to find more permanent housing. The volunteers are working on creating green spaces, garden beds, stairs, and berms to make the village livable, homey and connected to the North Portland neighborhood.


Stephanie Yao Long.

After asking the neighborhood for approval, the village is giving each woman her own house, but they will share a bathroom and kitchen. The kitchen is a bright yellow shipping container with a large cafeteria-style window cut out and three walls of cabinets and counters installed. A trellis will be engineered as a roof to provide both shade and privacy for the outdoor eating area that is to be installed later this year. The bathroom is a perpendicular, sky-blue container with a row of sinks and mirrors, two showers and porta-potties inside. Another portable toilet will be located behind the horseshoe of homes for easy night access.

Designed by Portland State University’s Center for Public Interest Design, a branch of architecture that tries to apply design principles to social problems, Kenton Village is still in its pilot phase. It is still testing out the women’s endurance to the 8×10 feet (2.4×3 meters) houses. On a larger scale, Kenton is a pilot version of an experiment that housing authorities wish to implement in other communities outside Portland.


Stephanie Yao Long

Portland is the largest city in the U.S. state of Oregon, covering 145 square miles (380 square kilometers). The city’s Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) shelters around 2,424,955 people, whereas it was estimated in 2016 that there are 639,863 living in Portland itself. In January 2015, a census counted homeless people in Multnomah County to be 3,801; 800 of which live in temporary shelters, 1,000 in transitional housing, and more than 1,800 “unsheltered”— sleeping under bridges, in parks, and on sidewalks.

Last month in Seattle, Amazon gave Mary’s Place, a Seattle-based company that provides homeless people with shelter, a new address. Amazon announced that it will devote half of one of its buildings to the company, providing it with six floors comprising more than 47,000 square feet (4,366 square meters). The new Mary’s Place shelter will include a family resource center similar to those at Mary’s Place Family Centers in North Seattle and White Center where more than 40 local nonprofits and teams of community and corporate volunteers join Mary’s Place staff onsite to provide services and work with families to help them secure permanent housing and employment.