Officials succumb to the power of the people and Dignity Village is granted an extension and begins negotiations for 1-year deal

by Jerry Martin

Like Ceaser threatening to throw the Christians to the lions, in June, city officials threatened to have police throw Dignity Village residents back into the streets. Shortly thereafter, City Hall was bombarded with letters, post cards, and phone calls from Dignity Village supporters that passionately opposed their decision. So once again, Erik Sten's office, backed by the mayor and ODOT stand united and turn their thumbs . . . up?

That's right. In a 180 degree flip-flop, reversal of last months decision, the city and state has given Dignity Village a 60-day extension at the current site at 17th and Northwest Savier, giving them until September 1 to keep paving the way for the most significant campaign for social change to come down the Portland pike in a long time: Dignity Village.

Why the change of heart? Bob Durston, chief of staff for City Commissioner Sten said, "There was an opportunity to avoid a confrontation while pursuing an option that would have a productive outcome for all." The city has extended their goodwill to also include negotiating for a more semi-permanent site. Durston said that he and ODOT are working with village representatives on a possible one-year lease deal on public land. Durston feels that the future of Dignity Village is looking pretty good. "The long term vision will ultimately be embraced by the community," said Durston.

Ibrahim Mubarak, Dignity Village resident and representative has been at the negotiating table working out the one-year land lease deal. According to him, village reps are now waiting for a list of 40 possible new sites to move to. They have until September 1 to choose a suitable site and then the "pilot project" may begin as long as Dignity Village agrees to meet several conditions required by the city.

One of the conditions to be met is cutting the population down from 80 to 40 villagers, with allowances for 60 during winter.

Another condition is no one under 18 allowed. "Which is a legitimate concern, although this village is very watchful and safe," said Mubarak. "If a family with children under 18 comes, we will let them stay until we can find other sufficient accommodations for them."

Some other conditions include miscellaneous sanitation and safety codes like no smoking in tents, etc.. And as always, no drugs and/or alcohol allowed.

Another major condition and previous sticking point that was worked out was cooperation with the police. The police want 24-hour access to the village, and an agreement has been reached whereby police can perform their duties working in conjunction with village security and insure the safety of everyone concerned. Mubarak said, "They've been very good about interfacing with our security, so far."

Even if all of these conditions are met, villagers are still going to have to be able to pay fair market value for the land that they lease. They are still negotiating the possibilty of trading work services for rent. the type of work they would do, perhaps for the city or county, has not been outlined yet, but Mubarak feels that $10 per hour would be a fair wage.

Also, more village co-op businesses, like the already successful Digsville Farms, are on the drawing board. With the profits from the one-and-a-half acre farm and future business ventures, combined with this in-kind trade money, plus what they already have in their bank account they should have no problem leasing some public property.

Mubarak believes in the power of prayer and said that is why the city and state changed their minds about shutting down Dignity Village and came to their senses. "They can plan all the things they want against us, but Allah is the greatest of all planners.