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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 3, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 05
A report on housing solutions for people experiencing homelessness in Seattle
Section One
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A report on housing solutions for people experiencing homelessness in Seattle

by Sharon Lee
Executive Director
Low Income Housing Institute

New Tiny House Villages!
New tiny houses built by the Tulalip Tribes TERO program will be going to the Georgetown site

In partnership with Nickelsville, SHARE, the City of Seattle, and Mayor Murray's Bridging the Gap Initiative, LIHI will be opening two new sanctioned encampment sites to address the needs of the 3000 people living unsheltered. The first site will be opening in February and is located at 1000 S. Myrtle St in Georgetown. The second site will be opening in April and is located on Nesbit Ave N. in Licton Springs. Volunteers and donors are working on completing 70 tiny houses. Pre-apprentice students at the Tulalip Tribes TERO program have built three tiny houses. Hygiene and kitchen facilities will be on-site, and LIHI staff and case managers will be available to help residents move quickly into housing and access the services that they need. As with our current encampments - Othello Village, Ballard Village, and Tiny House Village - we will need any help that we can get in the coming months to get these villages up and running! If you would like to get involved, we are always accepting volunteers and welcome donations for the program or for the residents. For more information and to volunteer, call 206-443-9935 or visit http://lihi.org/

City Transfers Old Fire Station 39 to LIHI to develop affordable housing & preschool
Mayor Murray recently signed legislation to redevelop the old Fire Station 39 into affordable housing and a new preschool for the Lake City neighborhood. The old Fire Station 39 will be transferred to the LIHI, which will turn the site into 70 affordable, family-sized homes with first floor space for childcare and preschool programs. LIHI selected Refugee Women's Alliance (ReWA) to operate the preschool program, which will have space for 80 children.

This legislation supports the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) committee's recommendation that the City leverage under-utilized property to address Seattle's housing affordability crisis. Innovative investments like this will help ensure Seattle is an affordable city for all who live and work here.

Commentary from Sharon Lee
Tiny Houses: A big help for the homeless
New Tiny House Villages!
City Transfers Old Fire Station 39 to LIHI! More!

This article originally appeared on crosscut.com.
Reprinted with permission.


Margaret Pitka, age 41, was napping inside her tent near downtown when she was fatally shot by a gunman who fired through her tent flap. Stacey Davis, age 48, was fatally bludgeoned with a homemade club, and her husband was seriously injured, when they were attacked by a neighbor while living in a tent under a bridge. William Burton, age 19, was killed when a drunk driver careened off the I-5 ramp in the University District and plowed into his tent. Looking back on 2016, the King County medical examiner identified 69 homeless men and women who died while living on the streets. The causes of death? People died from exposure, poor health, violence, gunshot wounds, drugs, suicides and being run over by cars. While this is a reduction from the 91 deaths reported in 2015, the situation is depressing. No one should die from being homeless.

Death from homelessness is totally preventable, but we currently have more people dying from being homeless than being murdered in Seattle. The homeless activists from SHARE and Nickelsville make a valid point: 'Without shelter, people die.' The One Night Count last January showed 3,000 vulnerable men, women and children living unsheltered on the streets of Seattle.

Mayor Murray showed leadership in declaring a state of emergency on homelessness in 2015 and putting forward landmark legislation to establish three legal and safe encampments. The mayor even offered up city-owned property in Ballard, Interbay and other locations.

From a homeless person's perspective, living in a legal encampment with food, water, toilets, a kitchen, security, tiny houses (with doors that lock) and case management services is a far cry from trying to survive alone on the street. We now have a year's experience with the three city-sanctioned sites that have been operating in Ballard, Interbay and Othello. They house 160 people at any time, including singles, couples, seniors, vets, families with children and people with pets. Thousands of other people have been helped in the short term as they pass through, staying for a night or a week before moving on.

Each location has a city mandated Community Advisory Committee (CAC) comprised of neighbors, businesses and church groups who monitor progress, give feedback and lend support. Each site has social workers helping families and individuals connect quickly to housing, employment and education so that living in a tent or a tiny house is not a dead end. My organization, the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), contracts with the city for services. SHARE and Nickelsville organizes the residents on daily operations, employing self-help requirements and democratic decision-making. Everyone has duties and chores, they must follow a strict code of conduct, and they are accountable to the community. No alcohol, drugs, weapons and violence are allowed.

On December 1, Mayor Murray announced the establishment of three new homeless encampment sites in Licton Springs, Georgetown and Myers Way in West Seattle. These will shelter over 200 individuals and will prioritize homeless people who are currently living in dangerous and unsafe locations on Seattle's streets and sidewalks. The Georgetown and Licton Springs sites will open in early 2017, and both are planned with tiny houses instead of tents. Councilmembers Bruce Harrell and Debora Juarez are supporting tiny houses over tents for the sites in their district.

Tiny houses are a preferred option over tents for many reasons. They provide better protection, they are insulated, some have heat, light and electricity, you can lock the door and windows, and you can get a good night's sleep without worrying about your safety. Living in a tiny house allows a person to go to work or school, and gives them the ability to keep their belongings safe and secure. They're also cheap, costing only about $2,200 to build.
How is it possible for tiny houses and tiny house villages to be built so quickly given Seattle's land use and building codes? Tiny houses that are under 120 square feet are not considered dwelling units under the International Building Code (IBC). Therefore they are under the wire and can be built in a few days or over a weekend by volunteers, church groups, high school students, apprentice/vocational training programs and neighbors.

This may feel like guerrilla housing, but a legal loophole actually exists. Anytime a new multi-family apartment building is planned to provide homeless housing, it takes three to four years to get through land assembly, financing, environmental and design reviews, building permits and construction. Building affordable housing is the real solution to our homelessness crisis - but with thousands of vulnerable families and individuals on the streets today, tiny houses are a viable, quick and low-cost solution.

So far over 60 tiny houses have been built and 40 more are underway. Each house is about eight feet by 12 feet, the size of a bedroom. Singles, couples, families and people with pets are living in them. A family of four can fit snugly in a tiny house. A family of seven who showed up at Othello Village lived in two tiny houses side by side!

The cost per tiny house is only $2,200 for wood and building materials. They can be constructed on site, or built elsewhere and brought in on a flatbed truck. The Tulalip Tribes' TERO pre-apprenticeship program has built eight houses. The Apprenticeship and Non-traditional Employment for Women (ANEW), YouthBuild, Walsh Construction, Seattle Vocational Institute, Renton Technical College, and many others are building them with enthusiastic participants who want to help people in need. Further, residents in Ballard, Interbay and Othello have embraced their new neighbors and are generously supporting the families and individuals with donations of building materials, clothing, blankets, food, books and toys for the children, flash lights, hygiene supplies and other necessities.

While a tiny house may seem like a teeny idea, it can help save a life.

Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day was February 2 in Olympia
The Low Income Housing Institute team and hundreds of housing justice advocates participated in this exciting annual all-day event organized by WA Low Income Housing Alliance to rally at Washington state's capitol and meet with lawmakers to discuss solutions to our state's affordable housing and homelessness crisis. For more information, visit http://wliha.org/housing-and-homelessnes-advocacy-day

United Way (MLK) Day of Service!
Thank you to United Way Day of Service volunteers from KeyBank Young Professionals, who came together on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to provide hot meals at the Ballard and Interbay homeless encampments!

Courtesy of Seattle Low Income Housing Institute

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