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Dignity Village dignitaries plan Ashland visit

Fundraising goal of $360 for trip has been raised; similar village in Ashland to be topic of discussion
 Posted: 2:00 AM September 01, 2012

Representatives from Dignity Village, an encampment of about 60 homeless people near Portland International Airport, will come to Ashland to discuss whether a similar setup would benefit Ashland.

Organizers Thursday reached their $360 fundraising goal and plan to bring three representatives from the Portland encampment to Ashland in mid- or late September for open discussions with the community and Ashland City Council, said Sangye Tendzin, a project organizer and member of the Ashland Citizens for the Homeless Coalition, which is helping to arrange the visit.

Tendzin's legal name is Bruce Thauburn, but he prefers to go by his Buddhist name.

Tendzin and Leigh Madsen delivered a report to the coalition and the Homelessness Steering Committee in August about Dignity Village, which they visited in July, and received positive feedback, according to Tendzin and Ashland City Councilor Carol Voisin, who also sits on the citizens coalition.

The Homelessness Steering Committee makes recommendations to the City Council on how to address homeless issues in Ashland.

"We have had tremendous progress on the Dignity Village project," Tendzin said. "We have people in Ashland who believe this should be thought about and discussed. If Portland has a model that works, then we can scale it here."

A similar community modeled around Dignity Village could work for Ashland, Voisin said, but only if the local homeless community is willing to make it work.

Tendzin said he believes there are enough "self-determined," homeless individuals in Ashland to support an encampment like Dignity Village.

Based the discussions with the homeless community on the Dignity Village model, he said, there are several supporters, as well as many who don't like the idea.

"The community has to want an encampment for this to work," Tendiz said. "These discussions will be a good opportunity for understanding."

He said citizens coalition members are working to get the Dignity Village representatives on the agenda of the City Council in September to formally include the City of Ashland in the discussion.

Dignity Village started as Dignity Camp, a group of about 10 homeless people exercising civil disobedience through squatting in Portland's downtown area, and, after being cited and opening dialogue with then-Portland Mayor Vera Katz, achieved recognition and a dedicated piece of land from the Portland City Council, said Ptery Lieght, outreach coordinator at Dignity Village, a nonprofit organization.

Dignity Village offers its occupants showers, a kitchen area, food donations, emergency transportation, access to Internet and other educational and counseling resources, according to its website, www.dignityvillage.org.

The facility, which harbors tarp-tents, recycled material and straw-bale bungalows, teepees, wooden shacks and pitched tents, costs about $3,000 a month to maintain, its website states, which it finds through donations.

Children are not allowed to live in the village, which requires members to abide by five 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; and no disruptive behavior of any kind that disturbs the general peace and welfare of the village.

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.


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