By Gerald Patriarca
Families living in tents in front of a Tukwila church are about to have a new place to call home, just in time for Thanksgiving.
The Low Income Housing Institute started accepting volunteers to construct a transitional housing village in Tukwila. The Riverton Tiny Home build began on Nov. 2 and is expected to take three weeks.
According to the LIHI website, the State Department of Commerce estimates more than 60,000 individuals are experiencing homelessness, with the City of Seattle only trailing New York City and Los Angeles for the largest number of people experiencing homelessness in a major city.
Tukwila Mayor Allan Ekberg said the Riverton project is the second within city limits. Ekberg said he recognizes the “cost of housing is quite high and the availability of housing is quite low.”
Megan Spasenoski is the Tiny House Village and Essential Needs Coordinator for the Low Income Housing Institute emphasized this village of over 20 homes can house up to four people each.
“We will need a village to hopefully get some people out of the cold and out of the rain,” she said.
The tiny homes are located at the Riverton Park United Methodist Church, where tents can be found situated on the property, next to Riverton Crest Cemetery.
“This village will be for couples and families,” Spasenoski said. “Each unit will have a bed, a clothing organizer, a fan in the summer and a heater in the winter.”
In addition, the LIHI web site shows that each house has electricity, overhead light, and insulation. Each village has a kitchen, bathroom & laundry facilities, offices for on-site case managers, ample storage, and a check-in house for security.
Spasenoski said LIHI partners with churches, rather than buying or renting land from the city. “Permits are typically easier if it’s on church property,” she said.
As the City of Tukwila does not have a housing authority, King County would work with the city in determining housing efforts. Ekberg said the city is in talks with King County about converting a hotel into housing.
As reverend at Riverton Park United Methodist Church, Jan Bolerjack said they have been housing people experiencing homelessness for over 15 years.
Currently, there are about 30 people living in tents on the property, ranging from a four-year-old to a 70-year-old veteran.
“Some of them are in the building, some are in tents and some are in cars,” she said, and added she “wants to see those living in tents move somewhere safe and warm.”
LIHI will manage the village, Bolerjack said. “They’ll take care of the intakes and helping people get into more permanent housing. We will just act as a host.”
The tiny home village is expected to open to residents by Thanksgiving. There’s no time limit to how long someone can live on the property, Spasenoski said.
“As long as the villager is working towards housing and meeting with their case manager bimonthly, they can stay.” The next step would then be affordable living complexes around the city and county.
“[The] goal is to move the villagers into permanent housing,” she said.
Volunteers are still needed for this project. See lihihousing.org to sign up and for any additional information.
Gerald Patriarca has a BA in Communication from Seattle Pacific University with a background in journalism. He has written articles for his high school and college newspaper, spent time as an intern at KING 5 and KOMO 4 and worked at The Seattle Times. Aside from writing, Gerald, his wife Alma, and their son James own JAG’s Auto Detail in Tukwila. To schedule an appointment and for more information, please visit jagsautodetail.com.