A new safe rest pod shelter opened in Cornelius last Tuesday with a celebration hosted by Washington County and Open Door HousingWorks. The new site is one of seven shelter locations the Washington County Board of Commissioners voted to fund across the county, bringing its total shelter capacity to 426 beds. The shelter will begin welcoming residents in early September and is expected remain at the site for two years.
The shelter can accommodate up to 40 people in 30 pods and includes wrap-around services such as on-site case management, housing navigation and employment support, as well as amenities like shared restrooms and showers. The services, the pods and most of the cost of the land itself are paid for by Metro’s supportive housing services fund. It will be the second shelter in western Washington County, joining Casa Amparo in Forest Grove, which also receives funding from Metro SHS.
Pod villages, as they’re often called, are different from traditional group shelters. Instead of sharing a room with a group of people – which can be difficult for individuals with PTSD or other situations – each person or couple has their own private space. Additionally, residents are able to stay for months, rather than on a daily or weekly basis. This stability is intended to improve outcomes for accessing housing and other support. Recent studies have shown this is a successful model and it is becoming an increasingly common tool to help communities end homelessness.
The new shelter uses pods that were previously at a temporary site in Hillsboro which have been revamped to include insulation and new floors. Local nonprofit Open Door HousingWorks will operate the site. The organization offers a wide range of services to the community, including foreclosure counseling, shelter management, encampment outreach and workforce development. They anticipate some graduates of the county’s new housing careers pilot program for people who have experienced homelessness will be employed at the site.
“The safe rest village is an excellent example of what collaboration can do,” said Metro regional housing director Patricia Rojas in her remarks at the event. “As we continue to do the work of building more affordable housing – thank you, Washington County for your great work in that area – we also need to build shelter and do other parts of the work to help folks in their journey to ending homelessness.”
Jessi Adams, capacity programs supervisor for Washington County’s Homeless Services Division, reflected on her two decades of work in the county’s homeless system and how much things have changed. “Things were very different” when she first started working at a shelter in Hillsboro after college, she explained. “Families had a time limit at the shelter, and then they would have to leave.” This meant that if they weren’t able to find housing they would exit back into homelessness.
For single individuals, shelter wasn’t available in the county at all. “But now, with the passing of the voter-approved supportive housing services measure, we are in a whole new world,” she said, “[one] where we can build shelter and pair it with long term housing programs to address this homelessness crisis in our community.”
After the speakers concluded, attendees were invited to tour the site and write cards to welcome the shelter’s new residents. The cards were placed in potted plants and distributed among the pods, which have small porches.
At the close of the SHS fund’s second year nearly 5,000 people had been housed, over 16,000 received eviction prevention services and more than 1,400 shelter beds have been created or sustained regionwide using the money. For the latest progress visit the website.