In an editorial about a recent fire at Dignity Village, you call us a city sanctioned disaster waiting to happen. We'd like to point out that, as your reporter Stephen Beaven discovered, we've hardly been waiting around for disaster. We were prepared to handle fire and were able to put it almost entirely out by ourselves, before the fire department arrived.

Last October, in our ongoing efforts to enhance safety at the village, we installed smoke detectors and dozens of fire extinguishers. This past weekend we built three ecological "fire stations" in strategic locations throughout the village. The stations feature rainwater catchment systems which channel rain to 55 gallon drums for use in the event of another fire. The fire stations also have fire extinguishers, fire axes and fire safety instructions.

You point out quite correctly that there is no code for a tent city. There is, however, code for transitional housing zones, as designated by ORS 446.265. Our October proposal to the City, outlines plans to upgrade the village so that it is compliant with this code and meets all fire and safety requirements. Existing structures will be replaced with sturdier portable structures, all built with environmentally sensitive building techniques and recycled materials. Infrastructure will also be upgraded. We plan to add solar panels and additional windmills to reduce our dependence on propane stoves, heaters and candles. The proposal can be viewed at our website:

The Oregonian has published three negative editorials about Dignity Village in the past four months. Here's some good news: during that time we've provided safe housing for approximately 60 formerly homeless adults each night and helped 18 folks transition into long-term housing. Over the past three years well over 600 homeless people have stayed at the village and used the opportunity to get their lives in order, seek employment, save money and move on to independence. Dignity Village spends about $3 to house one person one night. Shelters typically spend ten times that amount without providing anything like the sense of caring and community we provide everyday at the village. We're homeless helping homeless, and we're working on our own solutions one person at a time. It works.

Also, we have expanded our outreach to the rest of the homeless population in Portland. They are invited to the Village for bi-monthly medical clinics hosted with Outside In and monthly veterinary clinics provided in cooperation with Portland Animal Welfare Team. They are also welcome to showers, clothing and food.

Do the arithmetic -- right now there are over 1,600 people sleeping out on any given night in this city and only 670 emergency shelter beds or sleeping places on floors in the coldest months when the shelters open their overflows. Why does the Oregonian continue to maintain that the only compassionate choice here is to shut down Dignity Village? Does the minimal and well-managed fire risk at Dignity Village exceed the danger of sleeping in fear on the frozen streets of Portland?

The Village Council