Welcome to another installment of our series. I'm currently waiting for a few people to submit their posts, so this week, I've decided to focus on Dignity Village in Portland, Oregon. I learned about Dignity Village from an email I received a few days ago. This place is truly a place occupied by people living on the fringes.
Dignity Village is an encampment of approximately 60 homeless people located about seven miles outside of Portland. It is recognized and zoned by the city as a campground and it is doing well enough that the city of Eugene has decided to create a similar campground modeled after it called Opportunity Village. Ashland, OR is considering the idea as well.
Dignity Village became a 501(c)(3) membership based non-profit. Members must apply and agree to follow the following rules:
- No violence toward yourself or others.
- No illegal substances or alcohol or paraphernalia on the premises or within a one-block radius.
- No stealing.
- Everyone contributes to the upkeep and welfare of the village and works to become a productive member of the community.
- No disruptive behavior of any kind that disturbs the general peace and welfare of the village.
Here's the perspective of one of their residents taken from the home page of the Dignity Village website:
The one question most readers have is, what is dignity village? I would often tell them, it is a stepping stone in life. When people find there selves living on the streets, either in doorways, or under bridges, or the wooded area's along roads. There comes a time when it take's it's toll on them. They start standing out, instead of blending in. Trying to maintain that blend is lost. The best they can do is survive.
Getting back to a standard normal way of life, is simply a dream now. Someday I will have this and that. Reality of the real world brings them back to disappointment. This is where Dignity Village comes in. The village offers many ways for people to get back on there feet again. The standard shelters systems just can't provide all the things one needs to get back up on there feet again all in one place. It is to broken up and spread out. Sometimes you have stand in a line half the day to get a shower and the other half of the day to get a bed to sleep on. You pretty much wait in line for everything. It don't leave you any time to go out and find a job.
Dignity Village provides all these needs and offers services like computers for online job search, and a phone center, where employers can reach them 24/7 for work.
Dignity village was built by homeless people that simply wanted change. They wanted there Dignity and self respect back.
Dignity Village started in the year 2000. They went from tents, and tarp covered two by four huts, to small houses, which you can see today.
Dignity Village is one place that takes people off the streets and gives them a place to rebuild there lives. Some people need short term help, others may need a life time. They took what they had and combined there efforts to helping each other, with support without shame.
Here's an interview with one of the residents....
Homelessness is the extreme side of the nomadic lifestyle spectrum. I include it here because in the busy-ness of our own lives, it is something that many of us ignore. It makes us uncomfortable either because we fear it will happen to us or we feel powerless to do anything about the issue or both.
My intention in bringing awareness to ALL fringe dwellers from the homeless to the voluntary nomads is to ultimately show that our current lifestyle is not working nor serving large portions of our population. Our current economic system is by its very nature exclusionary which means that many people feel marginalized and pushed out including the very young and very old. My plan is to share a balance of posts that focus both on the fringe dwellers as well as some successful intentional communities that offer a new paradigm for a more creative, nurturing, healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
I'd love to hear from you. How do you feel about people living on the fringes? What are your views on community living? What do you see as the ingredients for a healthy life for all?
If you'd like to help by making a donation to Dignity Village, you can reach them through their website....http://www.dignityvillage.org/