City of Seattle Homeless Response
Seattle continues to address the crisis of homelessness by helping people living unsheltered on the streets and in tents move to safer places and toward a permanent home and better future.
Often, people experiencing chronic homelessness face significant challenges in finding and accepting shelter. These challenges include traumatic or violent life experiences, not being able to safely store valuables, rules against staying with a significant other in shelter and having to move between multiple shelters with no guaranteed bed at night. Further, there are even more barriers for this population in finding the resources and stability to secure housing.
Introduced in winter 2015, tiny house villages (formerly known as sanctioned encampments) play a crucial role in helping the City move unsheltered people from dangerous conditions on the streets and into a more safe and supportive environment. City permitted tiny house villages are designed to meet this need by offering transitional safer spaces that provide services and support stability and get people on a path to stable housing. Spaces in tiny home villages represent approximately 12.5% of all shelter beds and safe spaces the City supports and make up less than 3% of all homelessness response investments made by the City of Seattle. Tiny home villages are made possible through significant community and volunteer support as well.
The tiny house village program is just one of the strategies the City of Seattle utilizes in addressing this crisis. The Human Services Department (HSD) has a three-pronged approach to address homelessness:
- prevention programs to help stop people from falling into homelessness;
- affordable housing programs that help move people on from shelters and villages and that bring more affordable housing online; and
- emergency shelter programs that keep un-housed people safe while they search for housing, and shelter programs such as tiny house villages.
Prevention helps people who are housed, but are in imminent danger of becoming homeless, to remain in their homes. Once a person is homeless, they may use onetime funds or services, in a diversion program, to bypass shelter and enter permanent housing, or they may enter emergency services which include shelter, permitted villages, and transitional housing. From emergency services, a person may exit the program to housing using Rapid Rehousing, shorter-term rental subsidy, or Permanent Supportive Housing, which includes intensive support services as well as rental subsidy.
Mayor Jenny Durkan’s recently announced new shelter investments strengthen the impact of these approaches.
Emergency Services – Villages
Emergency services – like shelter programs and villages – play an important role in providing safe spaces for people to stay while they connect with permanent housing.
The City’s trained Navigation Team, which connects people living in unmanaged tent encampments to shelter, reports that tiny house villages are some of the most sought and accepted offers of help. In 2017, the Navigation Team referred over 250 people to tiny house villages. The village model includes individual weather-proofed sleeping structures with electricity that offer a secure space to store belongings, access to showers, restrooms, laundry, a community kitchen, and most importantly, access to professional supportive services.
The Navigation Team has found that they are more likely to convince an individual to accept their offer of shelter and move away from living in a tent on Seattle’s streets by offering a spot within a village. For many of the tiny house villages, the only way to secure shelter within the village is through a referral from the Navigation Team.
Seattle was one of the first cities in the nation to invest in tiny house villages as transitional spaces to address homelessness. The City has evaluated the program to refine, improve and integrate the tiny house village model into the existing homelessness response system. For example, the City has learned through interviews with people served by the villages that private sleeping structures (tiny houses) provide an invaluable physical space where people can transition from being in survival mode on the streets to reconnecting with community and supportive services. The City also has learned from neighbors and businesses about how the City and tiny house villages can better engage and work with community stakeholders to address challenges and meet common goals.
Lastly, the City provides quarterly reports detailing outcomes from investments made in the homeless response system, including tiny house villages. So far in 2018, the City has found all tiny house villages are at capacity every night, serving over 320 people every night. And, villages with more supportive services have an increased rate of exiting people into permanent housing than other villages.
Below is a summary of current updates, improvements, and community meetings for each City supported tiny house village. Each village is supported by a City-contracted operator, adheres to specific guidelines and hosts regularly scheduled meetings between village residents and community stakeholders through Community Advisory Committees (CACs). The City–Permitted Villages webpage contains details about each village to include the code-of-conduct materials, management contact information, names of the CAC members and the minutes for the monthly meeting.
Current Tiny House Villages
Whittier Heights Village
Located at 8030 15th Ave., Whittier Heights Village is operated and managed by LIHI. It is the newest tiny house village to open and serves up to 20 chronically homeless women who have lived unsheltered for extended periods and also experience disabling medical conditions – including behavioral health and substance use disorders.
Whittier Heights Village is Seattle’s first all-women tiny house village, meeting a need that unsheltered women, service providers and outreach workers have identified. LIHI provides extensive case management and supportive services for the residents in Whittier Heights Village and offers access to showers, bathrooms and laundry on-site. The village opened in May 2018 with 16 tiny houses and has supported a slow ramp-up to allow women to adjust to this new space.
Licton Springs Village
Located at 8620 Aurora Ave. N., the village is operated by Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), and managed daily by SHARE/WHEEL. Licton Springs Village was designed to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness in Seattle. Most of the residents of Licton Springs Village have experienced homelessness for years and even decades at a time, and some experience chronic substance use disorder, mental health, and behavioral conditions.
Developing intensive supportive suseervices for such a vulnerable population has presented challenges for residents, service providers, and neighbors. Currently, the village has full-time intensive case management, access to medical services, showers, bathrooms, on-site laundry and meal service once a day.
Based on feedback from neighbors in Licton Springs, LIHI is implementing an improvement plan that is designed to better serve both village residents and surrounding community members. Improvements, which will be evaluated by the City contract team in early August, include moving and narrowing the entry gate to provide better security, improved fencing, replacing dorm tents with tiny houses, reducing possession hoarding on-site, improved hypodermic needle containment and disposal, better hand washing stations, increased perimeter clean-ups and security, increased rodent abatement and installation of additional lighting. These improvements will help to inform decisions around continuation of the village at this site.
Located at 3814 Fourth Ave. NE, the village is operated by LIHI and managed daily by Nickelsville.
Northlake Village is one of the original permitted villages. It operated as Nickelsville Ballard off Market Street from November 2015 through March 2018. The new village has 20 tiny houses, a hygiene trailer with plumbed toilets, showers and laundry. A LIHI case manager works with residents to identify and address their barriers to obtaining housing. The Community Advisory Committee (CAC) recently began its work and has already shown strong support for the village. Community members hosted a July 4th barbeque for residents and neighbors.
Interbay – TC-5 Safe Harbor
Located at 1601 15th Ave. W. on property owned by the Port of Seattle, the village is operated by LIHI and formerly managed by SHARE/WHEEL. The Interbay-Tent City 5 village was originally located at 3234 17th Ave W. and successfully operated from November 2015 through November 2017. This was also one of the original tiny house villages launched by the City of Seattle and currently serves 50 people on an average per night.
Recently, residents of the village approached LIHI to take on daily management. LIHI has and continues to provide case management to aid in residents’ housing searches. In addition to full time case management, LIHI will add two staff people to act as site coordinator and manage day-to-day operations. Village residents will work with LIHI staff in leading and managing the village community. To date, Interbay-Tent City 5 has benefited from a strong CAC partnership, which was a driving force in relocating the village near its original location to maintain its strong connection to the neighborhood.
Located at 7544 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., the village is operated by LIHI and managed daily by Nickelsville. Othello Village is the third original permitted encampment and is operating at the current location, which is owned by LIHI, on a month-to-month basis. Othello Village serves adults and families experiencing homelessness and is frequently at capacity. The site offers access to showers, bathrooms and on-site laundry.
The Othello CAC, which provides a strong community voice, has stated that LIHI and Nickelsville have consistently addressed community concerns and complaints. The City will host a community meeting on Aug. 16 to hear about the accomplishments of the village and to begin discussions around the feasibility of allowing the village to remain at the site until the property is developed into affordable housing in 2020.’
Located at 1020 S. Myrtle St., the village is operated by LIHI and managed daily by Nickelsville. Georgetown Village serves adults and families experiencing homelessness, most of whom come directly from unsanctioned encampments through the City’s Navigation Team. Georgetown Village provides safe living spaces, including access to showers, bathrooms and laundry for 65 people per night on average. Residents also have access to case management services to assist with housing searches. The Georgetown Village opened in March 2017 and has an active and supportive CAC.
Camp Second Chance – Myers Way
Located at 9701 Myers Way S., the village is operated by LIHI and managed daily by leadership at Camp Second Chance. Camp Second Chance (C2C) is the only tiny house village in the West Seattle region and serves, on average, 50 people per night. Residents have access to case management services, portable toilets and hand washing stations. Union Gospel Mission provides a regularly scheduled hygiene trailer that visits C2C as well. From its opening at this location in March 2017, the Camp Second Chance CAC meets regularly to support the residents and address neighbor concerns.
New Tiny House Villages
Lake Union Village
The potential village is planned for 800 Aloha St. in South Lake Union and is the first village to be located in the downtown region, meeting a critical need in the area. Lake Union Village is part of Mayor Durkan’s plan to expand capacity at shelters and villages to serve an additional 500 people per night. Environmental testing and site preparation is underway on this site and the City does not have a firm timeline for opening.
It will host 22 tiny houses. LIHI will operate the site and Lifelong will provide case management to assist residents in finding permanent housing.
True Hope Village
Located in the Central District at 1714 E Yesler Way in the Central District, True Hope Village is sponsored by two churches, New Hope Missionary Baptist Church and Truevine of Holiness Missionary Baptist Church. The two churches and LIHI will support case management and other community resources for people living in 35 tiny houses at this property. Outreach organizations that work with unsheltered people will provide referrals into this village, including referrals for homeless students seeking to enroll in local vocational school programs. Partner organizations include the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, Seattle Vocational Institute, Seattle Indian Center, New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, Truevine of Holiness Missionary Baptist Church, LIHI and the Navigation Team.
Pending site preparation and environmental testing, True Hope Village is expected to open in mid August 2018.
The Human Services Department will continue to monitor the performance outcomes of the permitted village program and report the results quarterly.