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Billy Frank Jr. Place Dedication Ceremony

On June 1st, a dedication ceremony was held in Olympia for Billy Frank Jr. Place, which features 43 new affordable apartments serving homeless veterans, homeless young adults, disabled individuals, and other members of the community.  Located at 318 State Ave NE.

Top Middle: Willie Frank (Billy Frank Jr.’s son) and Sharon Lee with the Nisqually Canoe Family, who performed traditional songs to bless the opening of Billy Frank Jr. Place

Friends, family, members of the Nisqually Tribe, dignitaries, and housing supporters gathered to honor and remember Native American environmental leader and treaty rights activist Billy Frank Jr., renowned for his grassroots campaign for tribal fishing rights in Washington. Billy, a member of the Nisqually Tribe, was chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for 25 years until his passing in 2014. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.

Billy Frank Jr.

Willie Frank:  “My father fought his whole life, not just for the Nisqually, not just for native people, but for everybody here in Washington. To have a building named for him here in the state capitol is truly an honor for my family and the Nisqually people. My dad has been honored a lot since he died, and I think he’d laugh about it because he didn’t live the life he lived for recognition but because it was what was in his heart.”

Speakers reminisced about both Frank’s tenacious activism and his irascible sense of humor.  Doors behind the stage kept blowing open and several speakers paused to acknowledge the spirit of Billy entering the room.

Debbie Preston Back row, left to right: Alfie Alvarado-Ramos, Peggen Frank, Sharon Lee, Congressman Denny Heck, Willie Frank, Nisqually Tribe Chairman Farron McCloud, Trudi Inslee, LIHI Boardmember Melinda Nichols Front: Tribal Council Secretary Sheila McCloud

Congressman Denny Heck: “I am lucky beyond measure to have called Billy a friend for many decades and am grateful that this building was named for him. I am going to make a request of you in the spirit of Billy. I’m a little depressed because I just watched the President of the United States make us become only the third country on the face of the planet to not commit to the Paris Climate Accords. If there was anything Billy stood for it was taking care of mother earth so it could take care of us. Cool, clean water! I’m asking you, every time you walk or drive by this place, to take a moment to remember just what Billy fought for. What can we do? I get asked this every day. Billy never gave up. He was arrested 59 times and he never once gave up, and went from being a radical protestor to becoming the great uniter. Let this building remind us that we should never give up.”

State Representative Beth Doglio: “This building is more than concrete and steel and walls and floors and ceilings. It’s a stable home for many in our community who haven’t had that. That’s what can happen when we have a vision and a partnership amongst so many different organizations and government institutions in our community. Thank you for the hard work you did to make this happen. Having a stable home is the only way that people can put their lives back together, and it is a basic human right! Invoking Billy Frank Jr. for this cause is spot on. Billy was nothing if not persistent. We need to be banging on our elected representatives’ doors every day and demanding that housing be a priority.”

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Georgetown Tiny House Village Ceremony

On March 2nd, The Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), Nickelsville, and the Tulalip Tribes held a ceremony for Georgetown Tiny House Village, the fourth City of Seattle sanctioned homeless encampment.  Georgetown Village provides crucially needed shelter and services to families and individuals currently living on the streets.  The city-owned site at 1000 S. Myrtle Street will eventually feature 40 tiny houses, counseling offices, a kitchen tent, and a “Kingdome” and “Queendome” that will be used for emergency overflow shelter when all the tiny houses are filled.

The first three tiny houses moved on to the site were built by the Tulalip Tribes TERO pre-apprenticeship program for Native Americans, which provides training in the construction trades and helps to expose tribal members to great career opportunities that otherwise might not be available to them. “LIHI is a proud supporter of this effort to train the next generation of workers in housing construction as we work to address the housing crisis in our region,” said Melinda Nichols, VP of LIHI Board. The TERO program has built 13 tiny houses for homeless people. The photo below shows the three house doors painted by tribal artist Ty Juvenil.

Georgetown Community Council Vice Chairperson Kelly Welker welcomed the village to the neighborhood and recognized the large crowd, saying, “This many people coming out today ceremony gives me confidence that we’re going to be fine neighbors. I’m especially pleased that the Tulalip Tribes have brought art to a place in Georgetown that didn’t have any.”

TERO apprenticeship students Nick Brown and Ralph Flores gave thanks for the opportunity to learn and help the community.

Tatiyana Kensington, Nickelsville resident and external affairs coordinator at Tiny House Village in the Central Area explained “Something you’ll have difficulty understanding unless you’ve been homeless yourself, is that for us an encampment, sanctioned or not, is home to those that have few or no other options. Nickelsville is proof that self-managed communities can keep people together and safe while we work toward making Seattle a sanctuary for all its residents. Nickelsville works. Sweeps don’t!”

Sean Smith, Nickelsville resident and external affairs coordinator at Othello Village said, “The formation of organized encampments was a rational response to an irrational system.” Quoting Buckminster Fuller, he said, “It is now highly feasible to take care of everyone on earth at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. It no longer has to be you or me. Selfishness is unnecessary. War is obsolete. It is a matter of converting the high technology from weaponry to livingry.”

Tulalip Tribes Chairman Mel Sheldon, referencing the tribal art on the doors of the houses, said, “Art gives you a sense of culture and place no matter where you are. This isn’t the answer, but it’s part of the solution. When we act together there is no mountain we cannot climb.”

City Councilmember Mike O’Brien pledged “to work with you all to find new solutions to this tragic problem of homelessness until we have everyone indoors.”

The Mayor’s Director of Homelessness George Scarola continued this thought saying “We are going to work one by one to solve this crisis. These houses will house a few tonight, but over time they will help many.”

James Kahn, aide to Councilmember Kshama Sawant urged more public investment, saying “Three years ago we had no sanctioned camps, now this is the fourth. What a better use of public funds this is than sweeps. We need to make a Bertha-sized investment to end this crisis.”

LIHI Executive Director Sharon Lee thanked everyone, saying “We have so far helped over 900 people not suffer on the streets and under bridges. Soon we will have 120 tiny houses thanks to many generous donors, and the students and volunteers building the houses.”

Volunteers and supporters continue to play an integral role in developing an effective response to ending homelessness. For information on volunteer opportunities, please contact Josh Castle.  For information about LIHI’s tiny house villages or to schedule a tour, contact Bradford Gerber.

To donate to LIHI’s Tiny House Program, please visit Donate.

Information on the Tulalip Tribes TERO program

Clockwise from top left:  Georgetown Village with first three houses on site; the Tulalip Tribes TERO team; Georgetown Community Council Vice Chairperson Kelly Welker (right) with members of the community; City Councilmember Mike O’Brien.

L to R:  Tulalip Tribes Chairman Mel Sheldon with Sharon Lee; Nickelsville Tiny House Village resident Tatiyana Kensington (right) with partner; Tulalip Tribes door artist Ty Juvinel; Nickelsville Othello Village resident Sean Smith.

Tiny Houses: A big help for the homeless

The following article was published on Crosscut on January 4th.  Read Article on Crosscut.

Tiny Houses: A big help for the homeless

 SEATTLE, WA - Feb 25: Sharon Lee, Executive Director of the Low Income Housing Institute at the Denny Park apartments. Photo by Ron Wurzer


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 burgeoned 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.

Come Help this Saturday! (3/5) Final Push Work Party for Othello Tiny House Village!

Final Push! Come Help!

Work Party – Saturday, March 5, 9am-4pm
Othello Tiny House Village
7544 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S

(1.5 blocks south of Othello Light Rail Station
in fenced-in area behind 76 Gas Station)

Thank you to the over 100 volunteer heroes who came out last weekend! It was a stunning turnout and we got an incredible amount accomplished. See pictures above and below.
There is another opportunity this Saturday (March 5th) to join the final push work party and help get Othello Village ready for its new residents, who will moving in on March 8th.

No experience required! Tasks include painting, placing insulation, and tiling the floors of the tiny houses, setting up tent platforms, and other tasks.

Shifts are 9am – noon, 11am – 2pm, and 1pm – 4pm. Feel free to give as much or as little time as you have. There will be a volunteer huddle at 9am, 11am, and 1pm (the start of each shift).

Come prepared for the elements and wear clothes you’re willing to get paint on. Thank you for all you do and see you Saturday!

We are gratefully accepting donations of food and drinks for our wonderful volunteer heroes!

For more information please contact Volunteer Coordinator Josh Castle at 206-334-0508 or