Dignity Village

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Side Street in Dignity Village - At any time, there are dozens of structures measuring up to 10 by 15 feet. As shelters wear, their materials are recycled to fashion new structures.

Dignity Village is a city-recognized[clarification needed] encampment of an estimated 60 homeless people in Portland, Oregon, United States.

In the days before Christmas of 2000, a group of transients in Portland established a tent city which attracted attention, both opposition and support, which eventually evolved from a group of self-described "outsiders" who started unlawfully occupying a city owned land to a self-regulating, city-recognized "campground" as defined by Portland city code.

The encampment is currently located on a land near Portland International Airport elected community officials and crude but functional cooking, social, electric, and sanitary facilities,[1] Dignity Village got its start as a collection of tents and campers "squatting" illegally on unused public land near Downtown Portland.


Dignity village was founded by eight men and women who pitched five tents on a public land.[2]

Once established in the gray area of political speech, the fortunes of Dignity Village increased and picked up significant media coverage and popular support,[3] but at the same time, they faced a compromise that the group found hard to swallow, having initially fought against.

In March 2019, a tiny house exploded at the encampment from its occupant using a leaking propane tank inside the structure. The 8' x 10' structure was destroyed, according to firefighters. A male living in it was injured. [4][5]


After well publicized convoys of homeless people pushing shopping carts migrated from one place to another to accommodate legal technicalities, the Portland City Council agreed on August 22, 2001 to let the group camp at a city lot called Sunderland Yard, some seven miles from downtown in the Sunderland neighborhood at 45°35′29″N 122°38′11″W / 45.591398°N 122.636312°W / 45.591398; -122.636312 (Sunderland Yard site)Coordinates: 45°35′29″N 122°38′11″W / 45.591398°N 122.636312°W / 45.591398; -122.636312 (Sunderland Yard site). While Jack Tafari and the group vehemently resisted the location on grounds that it was too far from downtown, they eventually accepted the compromise as an acknowledgment of their legitimacy as a community.[6][POV? ]

Repeated attempts to shut down the campsite[7][POV? ] [8] have been rebuffed by the Portland City Council, which has guaranteed the community's existence through at least 2010.[9][10]


The basic Dignity Village rules, posted in the Commons

Dignity Village is incorporated in Oregon as a 501(c)(3) membership-based non-profit organization, and is governed by bylaws[11] and a board of directors with an elected chairman and other corporate officers.[12]

Membership is by application review. Dignity Village states that membership is not limited "based on religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, handicap, age, lifestyle choice, previous (criminal) record or economic status."

Because past criminal convictions are not a negative criterion for membership, and because of dangers presented by continuing construction, children are not allowed to reside in the community.[10]

Continued membership is dependent upon following the community's rules of behavior, contained in their membership agreement:[13]

  1. No violence toward yourself or others.
  2. No illegal substances or alcohol or paraphernalia on the premises or within a one-block radius.
  3. No stealing.
  4. Everyone contributes to the upkeep and welfare of the village and works to become a productive member of the community.
  5. No disruptive behavior of any kind that disturbs the general peace and welfare of the village.

Membership size varies and is limited by the physical size of the available space at the city yard site. As of January 28, 2016, approximately 60 residents made their home at Dignity Village.[14]


Deck Shelter at Dignity Village - April 2007. Many of the temporary shelters at Dignity Village are simple platforms with wooden frames for affixing tarps. Some residents pitch small tents inside such shelters for even more protection in cold weather. More solid structures are available on an as-available basis.
Adobe structure in Dignity Village - April 2007. This single-occupancy 10x12-foot "green" structure is one of many made by residents and volunteers with "mud and straw" and finished with a weather-resistant adobe veneer.
Garden in Dignity Village - April 2007. Communal and private container garden space are both available to residents. This is a private container garden tended by a single resident. Most food raised in private gardens is added to the communal food store.

Designated by the Portland City Council as a transitional housing campground, Dignity Village falls under specific State of Oregon building codes governing campgrounds. This provides a legal zoning status. Lack of building codes has shut down many other shanty town/tent cities in the past. Housing in the Dignity Village community previously consisted of tents, hogans, teepees, light wooden shacks, or more substantial structures built using principles of ecofriendly green construction such as strawbale walls and recycled wood. Light clay straw housing was also built in 2003 as part of the City Repair Project's Village Building Convergence.[15][16]

Community services[edit]

Among the services offered by Dignity Village for their residents include:

  • Access to television (limited)[17]
  • On-site veterinary and medical care on a scheduled basis by volunteer doctors and nurses[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Multnomah.edu Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ CNN Archived December 23, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Busse, Phil (October 9, 2003). "Staying Put--Again: Dignity Village Holds Out and On to Their Homes". Portland Mercury. Retrieved February 16, 2012.
  4. ^ "Tiny home destroyed in propane explosion at Dignity Village in NE Portland". www.msn.com. Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  5. ^ Burris, Emily , KOIN 6 News (2019-03-06). "Explosion at Dignity Village injures 1". KOIN. Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  6. ^ Bayer, Israel (October 13, 2003). "From Doorways to Dignity". Street Roots, via Street News Service. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
  7. ^ [1] Archived May 26, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Mayor Charlie Hales | The City of Portland, Oregon". portlandonline.com. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
  9. ^ KGW News Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ a b Sabatier, Julie (January 11, 2006). "Laura Brown: Life in Dignity Village through the eyes of one longtime resident". Willamette Week. Archived from the original on October 10, 2007. Retrieved February 16, 2012.
  11. ^ Dignity Village
  12. ^ Campbell, Duncan (October 23, 2003). "America's homeless become new small-town pioneers". The Guardian. Retrieved February 16, 2012.
  13. ^ Dignity Village
  14. ^ "DailyGood: Dignity Village: Homes For Portland's Homeless". dailygood.org. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
  15. ^ "Projects". City Repair. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved April 7, 2009.
  16. ^ "Dignity Village Builds Straw Bale Housing Prototype". New Connexion. May–June 2003. Archived from the original on November 21, 2007. Retrieved April 7, 2009.
  17. ^ The Olympian Archived September 27, 2007, at Archive.today
  18. ^ The Olympian Archived September 20, 2007, at Archive.today

External links[edit]