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Seattle City Councilmember shares plan to boost emergency shelter with tiny houses

A line of tiny houses stand with their backs to the adjacent street at a homeless encampment in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis has a new plan to significantly boost emergency shelter in the city by adding hundreds of new tiny houses in 12 villages in an effort to tackle the homelessness crisis.

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“We want to scale the city’s existing tiny house village system from eight villages with a total of 294 tiny houses, to about 20 villages and 800 tiny houses,” Lewis said.

Long-term, Lewis says the additional tiny houses will close the gap between the nearly 3,800 shelter spaces needed and the roughly 1,150 the city already has planned through existing funding the city has budgeted, and fundraising from the private sector.

“I’m building a coalition between the private sector and providers to come together and solve this crisis,” Lewis said.

It Takes a Village” is not only the name of Lewis’ plan to dramatically increase the city’s emergency shelter capacity, but it is also a reference to a new public-private collaborative effort.

Danah Abarr with the South Lake Union Chamber says the more than 200 member businesses and organizations desperately wanted to help with the homeless situation, but had no idea where to begin, so they went to Lewis.

“They don’t have the resources and the skills to provide all the things that LIHI [Low Income Housing Institute] does and that the city can do in these wraparound services, but what they do have is money they can donate,” Abarr said about the members of the South Lake Union Chamber.

Several companies have expressed interest and more are expected to join.

“Tiny houses are not permanent housing. They are emergency shelters combining private individual small houses with communal hygiene and dining facilities. Tiny houses in and of themselves do not end homelessness. Only permanent housing can do that,” Lewis said in a written release. “However, tiny house placements can immediately remove tent encampments by providing people highly desirable places to stay while they seek permanent housing.”

The council is set to discuss the idea formally on Wednesday at 2 p.m. during a meeting of the Select Committee on Homelessness Strategies & Investments.

KIRO Radio reporter Hanna Scott contributed to this report.

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