87.9 F
Seattle
Sunday, June 26, 2022

All Dressed Up and Ready to House: Why is This Tiny Home Village Just Sitting There?

Last week my Post Alley article “All of the Above – Tiny Homes and More” got a lot of response. The commenters clearly supported funding and expanding sanctioned tiny home villages. 

Tiny home villages offer warm, dry, supported housing, and, as City Councilmember Andrew Lewis noted recently, living in the villages is safer than living on the streets and in our parks. According to his review of the police data, in 2021 there were NO reported shootings in any of the sanctioned, managed encampments and tiny home villages. 

In contrast, on Sunday, April 10, Danny Westneat wrote about crime associated with unsanctioned, unkempt encampments on our sidewalks, parks, and roadways. In such informal places police statistics show that in 2021 violent crime went up 122 percent over the previous year. In 2021, there were 113 shootings in or around unsanctioned encampments.  This is unsafe for us all.

This past Friday, I received an email from a business group in Rainier Valley, fed up with tents and garbage in their neighborhood. The group says they have seen no coordinated effort to offer people a better option than life in tents on the streets. Not the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA), not the south end police, who said they are spread too thin, not even our new mayor.

Yet, in the midst of all this inaction, there’s a partial solution. It’s an unoccupied 40-unit tiny home village in the south end on Martin Luther King Way, right across from the Rainier Beach Light Rail station. It’s all dressed up and ready to serve, but it has not been opened. 

Available temporary  housing? Yes. In South Seattle, where the need is great? Yes. An entirely empty village ready to go? Yes. But it is vacant. Why?

Last week I walked through the village. It is gated, has new pathways, outdoor lighting, washers, dryers, a community tent for dining, 40 fresh and colorful tiny homes. If and when it opens, it will be under 24/7 management with security. It will have rules: only people who live in the units may stay overnight, and no drug dealers or lethal weapons will be tolerated. Its goal is to stabilize its residents, get them the support they need, and move them into permanent housing when they are ready and the permanent housing is ready for them. 

LIHI built this village anticipating that operating funds would be forthcoming. But in 2021, then-Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Human Services Department didn’t follow through with money budgeted by the City Council. Despite being in the geographic area prioritized by KCRHA, that regional agency has denied LIHI’s application for operational funding. For now, the gates of this tiny home village remain closed, and future residents are denied secure warm beds, food, security, and counseling.

George Scarola from the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) is frustrated, telling me that case management will be tailored to individuals and offered by ReWa, but it can’t act without funding.

As a candidate last year, my former City Council colleague Bruce Harrell said repeatedly, in person and on his website, “We need a Mayor who will take immediate and decisive action, a relentless leader who will take ownership of the problem. I will own it. My plan is to bring a new approach – one that will combine local and federal resources and work to coordinate with regional partners to ensure an ambitious plan – urgently getting people out of parks and streets and into stable housing with the on-site services they need.”

I agree. Urgent action is needed, but too little action is being taken. 

Here’s a peek at what this unopened tiny home village looks like today. 

  • Forty tiny homes, freshly painted and surrounded on the back side by trees. Each home has steps with a handrail leading into the unit; many units have ramps for easy access.

This village isn’t for everyone, and people with severe mental illness and drug addiction may be better served at other permanently supported facilities. Yet for many who are unhoused in the Rainier Beach area, this is a ready-to-use community in which case management will be offered to help people stabilize. 

Mayor Harrell? KCRHA director Marc Dones? You hold the keys. Open up those doors!

Sally Bagshaw
Sally Bagshaw
Sally Bagshaw served on the Seattle City Council, 2010-19, where she was deeply involved in finding solutions for homelessness.

Post Alley welcomes comments to our articles. Our guidelines: no personal attacks, stay on topic, add something of value to the discussion. Our editors will edit comments for clarity and to conform with our guidelines. We encourage writers to use their full names.

25 COMMENTS

  1. Sally,

    This should be a guest editorial in The Seattle Times, where it would reach a larger audience. Pressure needs to be put on Dones. It is ridiculous to have safe housing going unused.

    • As any statistician will tell us, correlation does not prove causation. That said, it was clear from the Fox13 article that steps needed to be taken and, in fact, were underway to improve security at the village and add an additional case manager. Unfortunately, the village was abandoned by the city before those steps could be taken so we will never know if they would have made a difference.

      The article also states that “They absolutely have to redirect funding to mental health care and drug rehab,…” The Licton Springs village was what is called ‘low barrier’ so the residents needed far more than a couple of case managers and security to address their problems. In spite of the lack of adequate support “Over half the people who exited went into long-term housing; problem is that there is not enough permanent supportive housing,…” That is a respectable accomplishment by the organizations tasked with managing the village and the failure of government to provide the needed resources and housing.

    • I hear you Susan – I happened to live in the same neighborhood at that time and it just amazed me how some people who lived outside the area would just shoot you down when you tried to address these real issues. This sounds like a potentially fantastic place but the bottom line is: you have to have it *well managed* and I don’t know exactly what that looks like. I recall another tiny home village under the I-5 freeway bridge where the residents ended up locking the gates – sounded like a mayhem of power struggles between two different organizations and/ or egos.

      • The Low Income Housing Institute (https://lihi.org/) manages the tiny home villages. They have a six year track record, and one of the most successful programs of transitioning homeless folks from the streets to the tiny homes to permanent housing. This tiny home village HAS been funded: Seattle City Council approved the funds and the mayor approved funding for three tiny home villages in Seattle in 2022. Once KCRHA releases the funds, 40 more people won’t have to lay their heads at night near rats and garbage and feces.

  2. I think many people working in the Homeless Industrial Complex, starting with Dones, hate the tiny houses because they expose a deep truth that nobody talks about. Seattle never plans to build enough housing for people of modest means. This means sub-standard housing for the poor– mass shelters and blocks of these tiny houses. The current Mayor loves ’em! Do the sweeps and house ’em cheap. Because shiny new apartments and “wrap around social services” cost too much money. How about jail or a shelter bed? That’s the Mayor’s unspoken plan I’m sure.

    Here’s the solution in Ogden, Utah. It starts by tossing the criminal druggies into Federal prison. Some folks may find this draconian and hard hearted. But this where the Left Coast is heading I believe. The new war on drugs…..

    https://www.standard.net/police-fire/2018/apr/19/federal-local-law-enforcement-announces-crackdown-on-violent-crime-in-ogden/

  3. If Mayor Harrell and Marc Dones don’t have regular meetings with community groups (and empower community members to ask any question they want), then how do voters hold them accountable?

  4. I miss former Mayor Mike McGinn. He and his staff would attend community meetings. He’d use his smartphone to record and triage questions, then either answer them on the spot or publicly commit to having a member of his staff answer them later – if research was needed. Why don’t Mayor Harrell and Marc Dones do the same? Maybe McGinn would coach them? If Harrell and Dones handled public concerns this way, it would go a long ways towards rebuilding voters’ trust.

    • You can blame the Leftist Protest Brigade for that, ( Kshama Sawant and her professional “scream team” are the absolute worst). Any time the City tries to have civil dialog with citizens about homelessness, Leftist bullies are show up and take over. If a Councilperson in one district wants to have a town hall style meeting with the people who live in his district, good luck. The meeting will be overrun/hijacked by out-of-district people who will do their best not to let anybody else talk.

      Seattle politics have changed…. mostly for the absolute worst!

  5. I am appalled that this village goes unoccupied when the need is so great to get people off the street out of an environment where they are preyed upon and vulnerable. Mayor Harrell, CEO Dones where are you? Sadly you appear to be MIA.

  6. Blurry strategy? Policy gridlock? Local bureaucratic errors? Or…? To me the reason is relevant only if it leads to rapid resolution of the circumstance causing this high value community resource to sit wasting.

    Please, please, Mr. Harrell and Mr. Dones, see to it that this village is brought to life.

  7. I can imagine that Mayor Harrell doesn’t want to get crosswise with Frank Chopp or with Marc Dones. I can also imagine that this is the kind of issue that will pull together some city councilmembers to force a solution and steal a march on the sluggish mayor. We seem to have a lot of “surrogate wars” going on over homelessness!

    • I get the feeling Mayor Harrell isn’t a big fan of Marc Dones . The two disagree on tiny houses, homeless drug use, public safety, and who knows what else. Harrell is pretty astute at reading the political winds and Dones makes a terrific fall person.

  8. A lot of effort has gone into getting this tiny Home Village put together.
    Hope our city funds the management to open this village now.

  9. The reason these remain empty (I’m starting to sound like a broken record) is some of the rules required to live in the housing would weaken the narrative of the activists running the homeless industrial complex if they publicly supported it. For example ‘no drug dealing’. A good rule I would think, but by agreeing to it you agree that some homeless deal and/or use. These tiny homes also do not have an equity lens requirement and it’s too risky to accidentally house people based just on their readiness to change and desire to reach their fullest potential.

    • Slight correction. The videos were not made by Sound Foundations NW. The videos were made by an independent film company about Sound Foundations NW.

  10. Great follow up Sally. Just yesterday a major MAJOR housing project employee told me there are 27 apartments available and have been avail for months!!!! These apartments are government funded and can be free for people with no income. They are intended for people experiencing homelessness.
    I have been able to place more than 103 people off the streets since 1/4/2021 using “external fill” methods or simply hustling daily to find transitional shelters, or apartments housing housing connector. Multiple / dozens of clients places tell me all the time “Andrea, there are open rooms, open beds, people stay here too long… people have jobs and like free transitional housing to bank money….”
    A man who runs a non spiritual halfway house told me he has FIVE semi private rooms avail and was begging me to send people to him. Employees at DESC and LIHI have confided in me that there are rooms but they are too damaged or no staff to clean and ready them for the next guest.
    DESC alone has hundreds of job openings available including case managers, security, janitorial, nurse practitioners and more! We have the existing housing and infrastructure to house Seattle and should invest the millions and millions to staffing these housing projects first!! Have the staff to progress people from the existing transitional so more can be referred. This isn’t a housing crisis it’s a staffing crisis. The social service industry needs to start hiring for passion first, training second and education third and get some fresh blood in this space that are accustomed to KPIs and accountability. Please join our movement for changing the conversation, changing minds, and revealing the truth! Andrea

    • Whoah there! That’s enough truth talking for one day. 🙂 “This isn’t a housing crisis it’s a staffing crisis.” Why, yes, yes it is! You you newsies need to read this post a couple of times. Social service providers can’t hire enough staff to serve the poor. But wait, it gets better! Sound Transit cuts service…. not enough divers. Same with Pierce Transit…. not enough drivers. Every police force in the Greater Puget Sound…. short of staff. And this in only the beginning. It’s going to get way worse this Summer….

      I think a whole lot of people in power want to say, “It’s COVID, it’s temporary, it will get better in it’s own”. But that’s not the real problem. It’s a 3 bedroom house costing a million dollars. Blue collar people can’t live here. LIHI (Low Income Housing Institute) is offering less than $22 a hour for workers and it’s a tough thankless job. At $22 an hour their workforce is damn near homeless. Fixing the homeless crisis will take $$$$$$ in housing AND $$$$$$ payroll. Don’t see either go this happening.

    • There does seem to be a shortage of qualified people to manage the growing number of supportive housing and supportive transitional shelter facilities that are needed in order to reduce the population of people who are visibly homeless and living unsheltered on the street and in vehicles.

      However, I completely reject the argument that staff do not need to be trained and experienced.

      Reportedly most of the visibly homeless people we see have been chronically homeless with multiple barriers to accepting and accessing services and the support needed for them to achieve stability and to successfully transition off the street to housing and to a successful life. An untrained, inexperienced outreach worker runs the risk of doing more harm than good.

    • You could stand to use facts more wisely. What are you planning to run, a prison? You are a good example of how more knowledge and training and less “just do it” might benefit the vulnerable. How about some data? Easy to say “I have done all this” when there is no way to verify your self-promotion.

  11. “Homeless Industrial Complex” is right on and a big issue in Seattle and across the multiple jurisdictions involved, most of which will complain of “inadequate staffing” You will never have it and it is a slow walk complaint.
    Those of us who have worked in government know one truth: If it’s the highest priority it will get done.

  12. Isn’t there 2 issues : providing 500 tiny home villages is impossible….and , if drugs are not allowed in these sites, most of our unhoused won’t live there. Where are the rehabs, where are the mental hospitals, where are the jails for criminals ? I don’t remember voting for legal drug usage except marijuana.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

LATEST

The Stones and Me: Close Encounters with Erratics

2
I like the idea of them as leftovers from the last ice age.  And I like coming upon the objects in places where I don’t expect to find them,

Dark Days: Supreme Court Overturns Roe

11
The U.S. Supreme Court, in its ruling, takes away a right from all Americans. Five Post Alley contributors react.

Jim McDermott: The Good and Bad of Serving in Congress

2
The book is a sharp, spot-on critique of Capitol Hill’s current clumsy dysfunction. Congress used to be collegial, with friendships across the aisle and a transactional culture of accommodating varied interests. No more.

Is America Falling Behind?

2
Visiting our near neighbor reminds this on-edge American that it really doesn’t have to be this way.

For Your Approval: Does Seattle Need a New Way of Electing Its Leaders?

12
Seattle City Councilmembers now have to enact Approval Voting outright or place the issue on the ballot with or without an alternative measure.

TRENDING

The Stones and Me: Close Encounters with Erratics

2
I like the idea of them as leftovers from the last ice age.  And I like coming upon the objects in places where I don’t expect to find them,

Dark Days: Supreme Court Overturns Roe

11
The U.S. Supreme Court, in its ruling, takes away a right from all Americans. Five Post Alley contributors react.

Jim McDermott: The Good and Bad of Serving in Congress

2
The book is a sharp, spot-on critique of Capitol Hill’s current clumsy dysfunction. Congress used to be collegial, with friendships across the aisle and a transactional culture of accommodating varied interests. No more.

The Complicated Legacy of Julia Child

3
The show may be a fictionalized version of Child’s groundbreaking TV success, but it portrays struggles by women for recognition and equality that ring true to that era.

The Supreme Court: Republican Majorities Since 1970

10
In fact, in every year since 1970, the majority of Supreme Court justices have been Republican appointees. Since the beginning of Chief Justice Warren Burger’s court until the death of Justice Ruth B. Ginsberg, there have been 31 Republican appointed-justices and 8 Democratic appointed-justices sitting on the Supreme Court.The Supreme