Seattle, Homelessness, & Tiny Houses

A good place to take a look at how the tiny houses method (which Sacramento has considered) can pan out, from the Seattle Times.

An excerpt.

The message had a hopeful tone: After months of delay, Nickelsville Ballard — one of Seattle’s half-dozen sanctioned homeless encampments — would finally move into its new location in the Wallingford neighborhood.

“The new village will provide a safer place to live for up to 40 people and includes hygiene services, housing case management and 24-hour security with controlled access,” said the Feb. 23 email from the city.

The tone belied reality. For more than three months, there would be no case management at the Wallingford site, off North Northlake Way, even though the city’s contract with the nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) required it. The promised hygiene truck wouldn’t show up until June, either. It took weeks for the camp to get electricity.

City of Seattle officials say these issues are growing pains that have come over the last three years with the setup of an untested kind of housing for the homeless.

But what happened at the Northlake encampment raises questions about the city’s and LIHI’s ability to provide the needed oversight for these villages to be successful. Consistent case management is considered essential, connecting homeless people to services, including housing.

Of the 439 people who left the villages between last July and this March, only 98 of them — roughly 22 percent — left for housing that was considered permanent.

The Northlake village, before its move from Ballard in March, struggled in particular. Among the city’s six villages operating at the time, it had the lowest success rate at a key metric — just seven people left for some kind of permanent housing in that July-to-March time period.

That’s the same number of Ballard camp residents who returned to homelessness during those months. Meanwhile, 35 people left that village for unknown destinations and reasons.

It is unclear if that trend continued after the encampment moved to Wallingford, because Seattle has not released that data.

But internal city emails and memos obtained by The Seattle Times through public-disclosure requests reveal longstanding concerns about case management and other issues at the villages.

The problems at the Northlake camp also may underscore unease, particularly at the federal level, with Seattle’s strong embrace of tiny-house villages in response to the city’s nearly 3-year-old declared state of emergency on homelessness.

Tiny houses are controversial partly because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development doesn’t even technically consider them shelter, but Seattle — along with an increasing number of cities across the country — is turning to them as a cost-effective strategy to connect homeless people with services and get them off the streets.

Retrieved July 23, 2018 from


About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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