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Dignity Village sparks controversy

The Portland State administration is demanding a formal proposal be submitted by students who support Dignity Village no later than Friday, Oct. 5.

As a round of forums on homelessness came to a close Tuesday afternoon, students organized a group to further pursue the idea of hosting Dignity Village at Portland State. As of yet no decisions have been made and both sides agree this project is in the discussion stage.

However, the PSU administration has taken a clear stand and does not welcome Dignity Village on campus. Dr. Douglas Samuels spoke on behalf of the administration, emphasizing that Portland State University, as a member of the Oregon University System, cannot make any commitments to Dignity Village.

A “Proposal to Host Dignity Village”, written by Laura Campos was presented to the student senate by Dimitris Desyllas, a student senator. Campos proposes that Dignity Village temporarily camp south of Shattuck Hall and west of Broadway, the proposed site of the Long House. Dignity Village would use the space from Nov. 1- March 15, when construction on the Long House is scheduled to begin.

Samuels claims the proposal provided does not work out all of the logistical information that would be necessary to integrate a social service program like Dignity Village into the university.

Representatives from Dignity Village claim the village is a self-sufficient organization. Villagers say they are able to provide their own sanitation, garbage removal and insurance. Before they are able to obtain insurance, Villagers explained, they first need a plot of land to relocate the village. They are eager to build a relationship with the university but the administration is apprehensive for a number of reasons.

At this stage, the proposal outlines a temporary location for Dignity Village. Dignity Village has three weeks before they will be evicted from their current location. According to Samuels, three weeks does not provide the university or the students with adequate time to organize and work out the logistics of this project.

Students, faculty and villagers engaged in conversation with Dr. Samuels in an attempt to understand the decision of the administration. Samuels states, “I can sit here all day long and tell you ‘No,’ but that isn’t going to matter.” Samuels said he understands student’s activism does not end when the administration says “no.” Despite the administrative decision to not welcome Dignity Village, Samuels encouraged students to work for human rights and civil rights.

Desyllas pointed out that the administration has denied numerous student proposals. Desyllas stated that Child-care, 24-hour library access and student housing were originally denied by the administration. Now all of these services are part of the university.

The momentum for this project is accelerated by the university’s proposal deadline and Dignity Village’s deadline to move. Students who support hosting Dignity Village are holding a meeting Thursday, Oct. 4 at 5:30 p.m. in the Smith Center. They will also set up a table in the Park Blocks to give students the opportunity to talk to villagers and supporters.