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Rachel Belle

A new tiny house village will be home to Seattle’s homeless

Just a few of the tiny houses, built by high school students, that will be home to 70 Seattle homeless people. (Photo by Rachel Belle)

On busy Aurora Avenue, across from a used car lot and sandwiched between motels and fast food restaurants, is a fenced in gravel lot that will soon be home to a tiny house village for the homeless. Seattle’s Low Income Housing Institute is responsible for the Licton Springs Tiny House Village.

“This is very, very exciting,” said LIHI executive director Sharon Lee. “This is a piece of land that my agency owns and we’re going to build some affordable housing. But in the meantime, we are setting up a tiny house village for homeless men and women. We are right now moving in 25 tiny houses that have been built by high school students in their vocational training program throughout the state. From Aberdeen to Walla Walla, Spokane.”

Lee says they’ll start moving people in on April 5 and will eventually have 40 tiny homes to serve about 70 people. The project is expected to last about two years.

“Instead of people being swept [from homeless camps] and then being homeless, they’re going to be offered an opportunity to come here. This is a low barrier philosophy, in terms of: you can come as you are. So if you have a drinking problem, it’s not required that you be sober in order to live here. But you have to be on your good behavior. You have to be cooperative and you can’t do harm to anybody.”

There won’t be any children living on the site and there will be rules and responsibilities.

“There’s going to be two full time staff people making sure that the place is operated well and that it’s secure and that it’s a safe place for people to live. We’re going to hire some social workers and case managers to help people move into housing and help them with employment and also access to services.”

The two staff people will come from Tent City 5, including Donald Toboll who has lived there since April.

“The opportunity was, by opening this camp, we’d get housing,” Toboll said. “We’re going to be living in regular housing offsite. And a job, onsite management. So we’ll be keeping the peace. We will also be doing neighborhood patrols, making sure that any criminal activity that goes on will be reported to the police. At the same time, we’ll be cleaning up the neighborhood of any debris that might be laying around.”

The houses are basic, most are just open 8×12 feet spaces, but they’re insulated and will be heated. There will be a community kitchen, Porta Potties, and a place to shower.

“So everybody will have to check-in, sign-in. There will be chores,” Lee said. “People will be assigned, like, kitchen duty, clean-up duty, maybe doing litter pickup in the community. We expect everyone to participate just like any household.”

Aurora and 86th just might be the perfect location. It’s on the bus line and so far there haven’t been any complaints from NIMBYS. You know. The Not In My Backyarders.

“I was so surprised!” Lee said. “We actually got a letter from the community council and I was afraid to open it. I thought I would open this email and it would be like, ‘Get out of here!’ It turned out to be a very thoughtful letter that was supportive and said: We understand the needs of homeless people. We understand that there’s not a requirement that they be clean and sober and that people may be using or addicted and we understand. They still would like to bring food and supplies and donations and help out. Isn’t that incredible?”

The idea is to give people a stable place to live so they can more easily get a job, or work on kicking their addictions, and then move them into permanent housing as soon as possible.

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Rachel Belle

Rachel Belle is a feature contributor and personality on The Ron & Don Show on KIRO Radio (weekdays 3-7pm), and host of the twice-monthly, culinary audio adventure podcast, Your Last Meal.

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