Tuesday August 17, 2010. Dignity Village is the most colorful intentional community we’ve visited, not just for the murals and vibrant colors painted on the buildings. But also for its story. It is a community of about sixty homeless people.
Now nearly ten years old, Dignity Village sits on the tarmac of a Portland city-owned lot located near the Columbia River in a mixed industrial and open space region. This non-profit organization has numerous enterprises which enable them to pay for electricity, water, and portable toilet services like any tenant. Except for the fenced parcel, they receive nothing from government funding.
Jonboy Hawkes, outreach coordinator, gave us the grand tour. All of the buildings sit on stilts at least 18″ above the ground, primarily to be above the level where rats can reach. Houses have a 10 ft x 15 ft footprint, and are made from salvaged and donated materials. There’s a lot of green plants everywhere, softening what would otherwise be a stark landscape.
There’s a big greenhouse, showers, portable toilets, community kitchen, large community building (one of only two that have electricity), entry/guard house, container gardens, and a thrift shop. Any person, not just community members, can use the facilities during their open hours.
Dignity Village has its own board, rules for governance, committees. All members must agree to several rules including no violence, no theft, no drugs or alcohol, no constantly disruptive activities. Each member must contribute 10 hours a week to upkeep and maintenance of the village.
They live up to their name, providing dignity and respect for homeless people. I think they may be the wave of the future in many ways, and not just for the homeless. (www.dignityvillage.org).