November 22, 2007 documentary – Dignity Village

Dignity Village, in Portland, Oregon, is the only government-sanctioned tent city in the United States. Tent cities have also cropped up in St. Petersburg, Florida, Seattle and Olympia, Washington as well many other American cities. Encampments on public property usually get shut down pretty quickly. Others, like the one in King County, Washington, have lasted for years by getting permission to stay on church-owned land.

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Dignity Village started out as an illegal tent city underneath the bridges of Portland, Oregon in late 2000, early 2001. When the cops came and gave the group of homeless activists 24 hours notice to disperse or be dispersed, the group simply moved their camp to another part of the city. This went on for about a year until the city of Portland finally decided to sit down with the homeless activists and figure out a plan. The activists were allowed to set up an encampment for 60 people on the city-owned Sunderland Recycling Facility.

Six years later, Dignity Village is on a bigger spot on the Sunderland site and they signed a lease with the city this past spring that will ensure their space there until 2010. Just before their move to the new lot, Julie Sabatier spent a couple of days at the Village, talking to the residents and hearing their stories about how they got there, what makes them want to stay or leave and whether or not they think the village model is sustainable.

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