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Women only tiny-house village opens in North Seattle

Tiny house village in North Seattle. (KIRO 7)

Seattle’s first tiny-house village for women only opened in North Seattle on Tuesday afternoon and residents will move in on Wednesday. It’s the first of three additional tiny-house villages Mayor Jenny Durkan has promised to address the city’s homeless crisis.

The Seattle Times reports that many of the homes in the Whittier Heights Village at were built by female volunteers.

In April David Moody, who lives near Whittier Heights, told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that he and his neighbors had no say in whether or not their area of the city would be changed.

“Our concern is, not only will those aspects come with this village, with this encampment, but [the Seattle Police Department] is ill-equipped to provide services to this neighborhood, and to that encampment, to provide peace and safety,” Moody said.

RELATED: Coming Whittier Heights encampment terrifies residents

Seattle’s eighth tiny-house village opened as KIRO 7 gets answers on what’s being done to make a tiny-house village already at Licton Springs safer. KIRO 7 investigations have shown that crime has risen in the nearby Licton Springs neighborhood, and at least one of the so-called ”villagers” has been attacked, too.

Only one of the non-profit agencies overseeing Licton Springs is now running the tiny-house village at Whittier Heights, too.

Sharon Lee, the founder and executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute, showed off the latest tiny-village. LIHI, as she calls her agency, oversees all eight tiny-house villages spread across Seattle.

“Georgetown, Othello neighborhood,” she said, naming five of the village locations. “West Seattle, Northlake, Licton Springs.”

Indeed, the village in Licton Springs has been an unwelcome addition to that North Seattle neighborhood. Neighbors’ complaints about an uptick in crime was borne out by stats KIRO 7 received from Seattle police in late spring. In one year, crime in Licton Springs is up more than 100 percent. Year-to-date, crime was up 80 percent. This, as crime overall in the North Precinct dropped seven percent.

Those living in the village have experienced crime, too. In April, a registered sex offender broke in and assaulted his girlfriend. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail.

“That’s one of the reasons we set up a village for women only,” said Lee. “This will be safe. Because we’re going to have full-time staff, 24 hours-a-day here.”

In the Licton Springs Action report, Lee and her staff cited several challenges: its location on Aurora Avenue, a longtime haven for drugs, prostitution and rough sleeping; not enough resources nor funding from the City of Seattle. Moreover, the villagers are sometimes blamed for actions of those who happen to be camping nearby.

Still, Lee says, “We think that it can be improved. We can definitely improve how things are happening at Licton Springs and we are.”

Those improvements include installing more security lights, security cameras, and tightening its partnership with SHARE Wheel so that there is a record of who goes in and out.

“We’re on an improvement plan to make changes and to be a better neighbor,” Lee said.

Those who live outside the tiny-house village at Whittier Heights will be watching to see if they live up to that promise.

Lee pointed to another published report that shows crime is down near the tiny-house village in Othello — 30 percent.

KIRO 7’s Deborah Horne contributed to this story.

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