Twenty-five eight-by-12-foot "tiny houses" were delivered to North Seattle earlier this week and will be open for a new homeless population that often struggles to find services—those with addiction.
The Licton Springs Tiny House Village, built by high-school and vocational school students, will be the first city-funded low-barrier encampment. (It doesn't require sobriety.) Located at 8620 Aurora Avenue North, the new encampment will grow Seattle's number of tiny houses to 128 distributed in five different locations.
"You can come as you are," said Sharon Lee, executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute. She said the village will eventually house 70 people. "Even if you have drug or alcohol or chemical addiction or a mental illness, you would not be turned away."
The tiny houses began in 2014 by the Low Income Housing Institute and Nickelsville meant to be a cost-efficient way—$2,200 apiece—to address the homelessness crisis. Each encampment costs about $200,000, Lee said, with the exception of the low-barrier one. The Licton Springs encampment will provide more services and security and cost double, Lee said.
The One Night Count last year showed a 19 percent rise in homelessness in King County compared with 2015, according to the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness.
The eight-by-12-foot shelters aren't required to meet building codes because of its size, and residents still qualify as camping outside. It's meant as a temporary solution until case managers can help them find permanent housing.
Opponents to the idea criticize the program largely because they only support a "housing first and fast" approach by providing permanent housing immediately. (A letter from Speak Out Seattle to mayor Ed Murray on March 15 also said there weren't qualified service providers, unclear rules and lack of supportive services.) But Lee said they provide the homeless with basic needs—basic utilities, protection from the elements, and a place to lock up their belongings—to allow them to seek jobs or education.
The tiny houses started out as just "wood shacks," Lee said but now provide insulation, heating, kitchens and bathrooms, and electrical outlets.
Council member Sally Bagshaw announced the city's plans for 1,000 new tiny houses a year ago. While finding land has been a challenge, Lee said she hopes her agency will meet the city's goal in three years. The Licton Springs encampment will be on a site LIHI owns.
Updated March 31, 2017, at 1:30pm. This post contains the encampment's address.
Updated April 4, 2017, at 12:37pm. This post corrects that it's the city's first low-barrier encampment, not its first low-barrier shelter.