In Seattle, it’s rare when the full city council, social service providers, the city’s business community, neighbors and those with lived experience agree on any policy. But when it comes to serving our unsheltered neighbors with transitional housing needs, tiny home villages have built such consensus.
Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis centered tiny homes in his “It Takes a Village” campaign launched earlier this year. The effort seeks to address the most acute impacts of unmanaged encampments by building more tiny home villages across the city and providing safe, secure, dignified shelter for those who have been living outside.
Tiny house villages appeal to people living outdoors because they provide a door that locks, privacy, electric heat and access to needed services. For those experiencing homelessness, the combination of a tiny house and personalized on-site services is a proven stabilizing first step in the transition out of homelessness. We know from experience with the city’s existing tiny house villages that this model is more successful than conventional shelters in helping people move to permanent housing.
However, since the launch of the “It Takes a Village” campaign — and in the face of an enduring pandemic — the city’s transitional shelter gap continues to soar, unmanaged encampments have become more dangerous and only three new villages are scheduled to open before winter.
Nowhere is this crisis more clearly illustrated than at the “Block 59” encampment at Dexter and Mercer. From a few scattered tents, it has quickly grown to overflowing. Neighbors are alarmed by the lack of hygiene and dangerous behavior. Just last month a dispute led to the death of a camper.
To be clear: This current situation suits absolutely no one.
We want our unhoused neighbors to live in our community in safe and humane accommodations with access to essential human services. We want our business owners and community members to feel safe and freely access parks and sidewalks. And we want our city leaders to take action on proven and broadly supported transitional housing solutions that help address the growing homelessness crisis our city has grappled with for the last five years.
Here in South Lake Union, the Mirabella Civic Engagement Project, the Onni Group and many others are calling on the city to support a new tiny home village on Seattle City Light property at 145 Yale Ave N.
As active community members, our two groups have come together to raise more than $250,000 through the “It Takes A Village” campaign to support this effort — more than enough to cover the cost of building 40 tiny houses, a hygiene trailer with showers and toilets, and a common kitchen.
Community support extends well beyond funding the construction of a village at 145 Yale. The community is committed to delivering the long-term support proven critical to success of villages: community involvement, volunteering, providing supplies and serving on advisory boards, to name a few.
Recently, our community has learned of Seattle City Light’s intentions to use this particular location for a facility to bend conduit. While we are sure the need for a City Light pipe-bending facility is important, it is not a crisis of the magnitude of homelessness in Seattle.
At its root, we know more permanent supportive housing is needed to fully address the systemic problem of homelessness. However, building permanent supportive housing units take years. Until then, we face some important realities: We are yet again approaching cold temperatures and harsh weather, we have growing encampments across the city, and doing nothing to address this crisis is not an option.
The Onni Group, Mirabella and many others are proud to join Councilmember Lewis to push for additional tiny house villages to support our unhoused neighbors and communities. Our community is anxious to step up and help solve the homeless crisis right in our backyard.
Winter is coming. A tiny home village at 145 Yale can help.