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Woman gets a fresh start at women's homeless village

Jewell Ramirez paints a picture of a woman on the side of her tiny home in the Kenton Women's Village in North Portland. (KATU Photo)

After 10 years of chronic homelessness, Jewell Ramirez couldn’t take it anymore.

So she sought help from Catholic Charities. A case manager there helped her fill out a questionnaire, and three days later Ramirez was approved for a tiny home at the newly formed Kenton Women’s Village in North Portland.

“I just want to say in my heart how grateful I am to have this opportunity to further myself and to get on with my life for the better,” she said Saturday about the opportunity for a better life that the community of 13 other women has given her.

“It’s nice to have someone to listen to you – and their kindness,” she says, “I just never thought there were people like that.”

Her pod is powered by a solar panel. She says on a nice sunny day, she has enough electricity to watch a movie on her DVD player.

Before finding a home in the Kenton Women’s Village, Ramirez says she went to 20 different places to try to find a place to live, but the lack of much of a credit history and the stigma of homelessness thwarted her efforts.

“I didn’t tell them at first, but I imagine people can tell – even though you try to hide it, but it just comes out,” she says.

On Saturday, Ramirez was busy painting a woman on the side of her pod, drawing from her Native American roots.

“This is a native woman, possibly me,” she says about her painting that included bird feathers. “The birds in our culture are sacred. They signify freedom and humbleness and elegance, especially the American eagle. It’s something like a national monument.”

Savanah Walseth, the village manager, says the goal is to help the women find “permanent supportive housing.”

She says when the village first started operations about four months ago, things were a little rough at first. Sometimes there were fights, but Walseth says things eventually calmed down.

“This is an ongoing process, but it’s really an exciting one and it’s really fruitful,” she says. “We’re excited to see people moving from the streets into their own housing because of the Kenton Women’s Village.”

Walseth says the village gives the women a safe place to stay and store their belongings. Then they can start to work on things like getting a job, getting Social Security income or volunteering for things that can be used on a resume.

Portland State University’s School of Architecture helped design the pods and the community.

The Kenton neighborhood approved the community for homeless women in March.

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