Dignity Village started as both a camping protest by a group of committed homeless activists, and a viable alternative to sleeping on the streets and in doorways. It emerged as a transient tent city in December of 2000 on a parcel of vacant city land underneath a downtown bridge. Over the course of a year, the tent city was swept around Portland, occupying various public spaces, and repeatedly finding themselves in high-profile standoffs with officials. Whenever notice was given to leave a campsite, early residents of “Camp Dignity” packed their belongings into shopping carts and pushed them in parades to their next location.
For a time, a space under the Fremont Bridge was known as Camp Dignity. In December 2001, Dignity Village registered as a 501(c)3 non-profit. When the ruling came down that they needed to vacate from that location, organizers split into three groups: Rancho Dignity moved to a forty-acre farm outside Portland, Field Of Dreams occupied a field off Naito Parkway, but was swept with several members arrested for camping on public lands, and Dignity Village moved to industrial Sunderland Yard, where it still stands today.