One idiom that has gone out of fashion: bigger is better. Lately, the opposite appears truer at every turn. Think Peter Dinklage from “Game of Thrones,” smart phones, iPads, just about every electronic popularly produced for the modern market—and tiny homes.

Multnomah County is currently toying with a creative bout of altruism by building homeowners free Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in their backyards if they host homeless families in them for five years. After half a decade, the homeless occupants will be relocated while the homeowners take control of the tiny home left on their property.

“We know that in three to five years there will be significantly more permanent housing,” says Jaquetta White, the communications coordinator for the Department of County Human Services for Multnomah County. “The county is thinking with the pilot project that in the meantime, people need a place to go that’s safe. This is more stable housing that’s not a shelter. People can transition into something that’s more comparable to a house.”

If you haven’t already offered up your own backyard, it’s too late; the application deadline was April 3.

Dubbed “A Place for You” by Multnomah County, this project is the rare deal that exposes few victims. Currently, a pilot project with the non-profit Enhabit aims to see four ADUs built by the end of the summer. The units will be just a few hundred square feet. However, they would come with plumbing and electricity. They would not be the popular tiny houses on wheels. Hundreds more could follow in the interim while living spaces that are more traditional are completed.

For the most part, the Multnomah Idea Lab is locating families with the right idea in mind: they are looking to set up ADUs in various locations around the city that are dutifully located a quarter mile from schools, laundromats and MAX and bus stops, as well as social service facilities. But there doesn’t appear to be a specific emphasis on locating ADUs in the geographic heart of Portland’s homelessness debate: east county, encompassing both Gateway and Parkrose.

“Families have not been placed yet, and they haven’t been selected,” adds White, who notes that 1,100 applicants expressed interest in having ADUs built in their backyards. “Right now, the timeline is looking like the ADUs will be built in mid-to late August. We expect the families to be moved in sometime thereafter.”

According to the results from an extensive 2015 Multnomah County survey, the number of homeless individuals in Gresham/east county nearly tripled in the two years since 2013. A population of 65 became 176. This significant increase reflects property spikes closer to downtown, which have pushed individuals eastward.

More recently, a federally mandated point-in-time report released by the Joint Office of Homeless Services has revealed that things are growing bleaker—mostly. Since 2015, the homeless population has risen in Multnomah County by 10 percent, though fewer people are sleeping outside of shelters.

As reported by Willamette Week, the Springwater Corridor in Southeast Portland may be the largest homeless camp in the United States. East Portland is also considerably more racially diverse than the west, and people of color are still disproportionately homeless, according to June’s point-of-time report, despite being a focal point for Multnomah County.

There is no guarantee that many, if any, of the tiny homes will be in the trenches of east Portland. In fact, it’s uncertain if the public, or the families themselves, will know who ends up being placed where and when until move-in day.

“That’s going through the Multnomah County Idea Lab where their Mobile Housing Team already works with families trying to get them into permanent, stable houses,” explains White. “That will be the last phase of the process. It’ll depend on who’s in need at the time of completion.”

On the other hand, there are limits to having four initial ADUs to play with. They can’t all be in east Portland.

“With four sites, it’s hard,” says Denis Theriault, the spokesperson for Multnomah County’s Joint Office of Homeless Services. “There are a lot of things to weigh. We don’t force anyone to live anywhere. We want to keep in mind where people work. Can you walk to places? Is there a park nearby? It’s hard to target a geographic area.”

For now, it appears that A Place for You is full of just motivations. But some might question whether ultimately, if the pilot project is a success, the majority of added ADUs should be placed where the rates of homeless people seem to be increasing most. This would be in the east.

A Place for You may produce the most buzz of any of the county’s many homelessness-centric housing projects, but it’s not the only one. A Home for Everyone is a partnership between entities such as Multnomah county, the city of Portland, the city of Gresham and countless nonprofits bent on ending homelessness. A small bit of good news: A Home for Everyone has added 600 shelter beds since January 2016, meaning the county is currently seeing the lowest number of individuals sleeping unsheltered since 2009. The 600 shelter beds nearly doubled the amount of publicly funded spaces available for the homeless.

For now, every improvement is a victory. It is still unknown if the first four ADUs will be successful enough to warrant any additional tiny homes being built. Nevertheless, at least eight families will benefit as part of this grandiose social experiment.

For more information about A Place for You, visit Multnomah County’s website at, or For more information about Enhabit, visit Contact A Home for Everyone with questions about the project at