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Tiny home village, Northlake
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City reverses course, allows controversial Seattle tiny home village to remain open

Tiny home houses in Seattle. (Matt Pitman, KIRO Radio)

Back in October, it looked as though Seattle’s Northlake tiny house homeless village would be closed by the city for good, with its funding cut off and an exit date set for December. Now, the village will stay open at least until the spring, thanks to a last-second save from a local church.

LIHI, Nickelsville split up over Seattle homeless camp management

To understand this saga, we have to rewind even further to April, when the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) and Nickelsville split up over the management of a collection of tiny home villages across Seattle. Embroiled in a feud over management of those villages for months, Nickelsville went as far as to padlock its gates in Northlake in the wake of that split.

Northlake’s gates have been locked ever since, with the village barring LIHI from entering entirely (with the exception of caseworkers), ultimately leading to the city’s initial decision to cut off funding for the village and relocate its residents. When many of those residents threatened to stay after the Dec. 9 shutdown date was set, yet another conflict appeared to be brewing.

Thanks to a sponsorship from a local church, though, that’s showdown has been headed off, at least for now.

According to statements from a Wallingford neighborhood blog published by The Seattle Times, there are suspicions that the city allowed this brief reprieve to avoid the poor optics of essentially evicting almost two-dozen homeless residents heading into winter, and right before the holidays to boot.

Seattle’s Human Services Department claims otherwise, stating in a Thursday email that it “believes a short-term agreement between stakeholders that allows residents to have full-time case management and housing connections” is the best way forward.

When it originally decided to shutter the Northlake tiny home village in October, HSD was less confident in that idea.

“LIHI has not been able to operate the village as specified in their contract throughout 2019 due to ongoing interference in camp operations and client services from its former subcontractor, Nickelsville, which has prevented LIHI staff from effectively engaging residents of the village,” it said in a news release at the time.

Homeless shelter opened in unused King County jail

Northlake residents will now remain with the city’s blessing and a new sponsor until March 2020.

Over the last few years, LIHI had partnered with Nickelsville to run other tiny home villages in Othello and Georgetown. LIHI announced a new partner for the Othello village in September, while Georgetown is currently looking for a church sponsor of its own.

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