Brittany ran away from home when she was eight years old to escape an abusive situation and has lived without a permanent home in Portland, Oregon for much of the time since. During these years, she resided under bridges, in yurts in the forest, in a self-governed encampment for people experiencing homelessness and even in a treehouse before landing in a community called Agape Village.

After just four months of living at Agape, Brittany, now 36 years old, transitioned into her own two-bedroom apartment.

“Agape Village gave me a safe space to just be me,” she says. “It showed me that I needed to really get a hold of my life. I had been in the wind a long time.” 

Agape Village, located on the grounds of the city’s Central Nazarene Church, consists of 13 simple wooden huts. Sarah Chapman, outreach coordinator at Agape, calls them sleeping pods, but they are more like tiny homes — only without electricity or plumbing. “It’s rustic,” says Chapman. “A step up from camping, but definitely not like living indoors.” But to the people who live there, it is the community and the stability that are life-changing. 

Getting people into housing quickly requires sufficient affordable housing inventory, something Portland lacks. Smaller, cheaper shelters like Agape Village help fill the gap. Credit: Hannah Wallace

Chapman refers to Agape Village as a “transitional housing village” designed to bridge the gap between homelessness and permanent housing. Typically, transitional housing consists of a conventional house or apartment and is accompanied by intensive case management and other services for addiction and mental health issues. These days, though, the term has broadened to include low-cost, low-barrier-to-entry shelters such as sanctioned campgrounds or certain tiny-house villages. The people who live in them say having a roof over their heads has allowed them to address the challenges that have kept them chronically homeless in the past.  

Tiny homes, transformational community

Living on the streets or in unsanctioned campgrounds means risking having your belongings stolen or or confiscated by city officials who routinely sweep through to “clean up” such encampments. And though homeless shelters are warm and mostly safe from crime, they have their own downsides: a lack of privacy, risk of infection and strict limitations on belongings.    

Continue reading at Reasons to be Cheerful.