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.

Othello Village Gets Heat!

Tiny House Village Gets Heat Thanks to Donations

Seattle, WA – Nickelsville Othello Village, a city-sanctioned tiny house village serving homeless families and individuals received a significant quality of life upgrade as heat and electricity have been installed in all the tiny houses. Heat, light and electrical outlets were made possible due to generous donations from individuals, foundations and organizations.

Currently 61 people live in Othello Village, including 50 adults and 11 children.

The residents are ecstatic given the cold weather these past few weeks. “This is the first time I’ve had a door and heat in six years. Thanks so much. It is so life altering. We are so blessed,” said Mitze, who had tears in her eyes. “This is the end of a long hard winter. Thanks for your donations,” said Sean.

Othello Village is the third city-sanctioned encampment and was opened by LIHI and Nickelsville in March of 2016 as a crisis response to homelessness. Many people are not able to access traditional shelters, including couples, men with children, families with teenage sons, people with pets, and individuals who are working and need a place to keep their belongings safe. Over 3,000 men, women and children are on the streets unsheltered according to the January 2016 One Night Count.

LIHI executive director Sharon Lee said: “We had a bare bones budget when we opened Othello Village last year. At that time we did not have money to install electricity and heat in the tiny houses. We are most grateful to the many donors who made this possible. A little heat goes a long ways when your house is 8 feet by 12 feet, the size of a small bedroom.” A small family can fit in a tiny house and a large family can fit in two tiny houses side by side.

LIHI Boardmember Melinda Nichols said, “We’ve been learning a lot. Just insulating the houses was not enough. Heat is necessary both for the residents and for keeping the tiny houses dry and free from moisture damage.” The International District Rotary is helping LIHI raise money for the portable hot oil electric heaters, which cost $61 each.

Located near Othello Light Rail Station at 7544 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., the village contains 28 insulated tiny houses that are 8 feet by 12 feet and 12 tents on platforms. The village has a kitchen, a community tent, a shower trailer, a donation hut and a security booth. The village provides shelter for vulnerable families and individuals experiencing homelessness. The property is owned by LIHI and Nickelsville residents participate in self-help and democratic decision-making in the day to day operations. The Seattle Human Services Department provides funding for operations and case management services to help people obtain housing and jobs.

In the nine months the village was in operation in 2016, LIHI moved 68 Othello Village residents into housing and 13 into other shelter. 14 have been reunited with family and friends. 19 have found employment.

Most of the tiny houses were built by volunteers. The organizations and pre-apprenticeship programs that donated their resources and energy to build the tiny houses are: the Tulalip Tribes TERO Training Program, YouthBuild, Hazel Wolfe K-8 School, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Rebuilding Together, Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Employment for Women (ANEW), Renton Technical College, Paul G. Allen Foundation, Seattle Vocational Institute, Sawhorse Revolution, Valley Cities, Carpenters Apprenticeship, Portable Storage NW, and Walsh Construction. Hundreds of community volunteers also painted, tiled and furnished the tiny houses.

LIHI, in partnership with Nickelsville and SHARE, hopes to duplicate the success of Othello Village at our future tiny house villages, including two upcoming city-sanctioned sites opening in Georgetown and Licton Springs.

Volunteers, donors and supporters continue to play an integral role in developing an effective crisis response to ending homelessness. For information on volunteer opportunities, please visit Get Involved.  To donate, please visit Donate.


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.

The Marion West Opens

Marion West Grand Opening!

On June 21st, a large crowd of housing supporters gathered to celebrate the grand opening of The Marion West, LIHI’s new project in the University District featuring 20 affordable apartments for homeless young adults (age 18 to 24) and 29 apartments for low-wage workers who are entering the workforce. The project is named for racial justice champion Marion West, who along with her husband, helped break the color barrier in the U-District by housing African Americans and students of color in the 1950s.

Marion West

Speakers included Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who thanked the building’s namesake Marion West for courage as a housing justice pioneer in the 1950s, and emphasized that, “It is in partnership with the homeless that we solve homelessness.”

Marion West followed the Mayor and thanked LIHI for remembering her and bestowing this honor upon her. She said, “I speculate that the people who will live here will have a few cracks in their lives. By giving them this ground to stand on they will have an opportunity to fill in those cracks and help create a more equitable society.”

Marion’s daughter Kathleen spoke of a wonderful childhood growing up in their multicultural boardinghouse household in the U District, with a multitude of melodious language, swirling colors, and delicious smells, in a time when such households essentially didn’t exist and, in fact, people sometimes surrounded their home demonstrating against its existence.

City Councilmember Debora Juarez praised the West family saying, “This building, through brick and mortar, embodies the generosity and love you offered 60 years ago.”

Melinda Giovengo, executive director of YouthCare, which will be providing social services to the youths living at The Marion West, stressed the importance of having affordable housing for youths in the U District, a place youths want to live: “This home will give them a safe place to help them work on art, on their careers, on maintaining sobriety in a youth-centric neighborhood where they can thrive.”

Sally Clark, representing the University of Washington and the U District Partnership emphasized how wonderful it was that three synergistic organizations–LIHI, The U District Foodbank, and YouthCare–could partner to create such a necessary project: We need more of this. Let’s do it again.”

Joe Gruber, executive director of the U District Foodbank, thankful for the expanded space and capacity to serve more people better. said, “Our new home is about providing a strong foundation for our foodbank families.”

News Coverage:

KIRO 7: From tiny house village to apartment, homeless mother, toddler get new beginning
Q13: Marion West Apartment project in Seattle to help homeless young people

Seattle Tent Cities Show Positive Outcomes


City Authorized Encampments Moving Residents into Housing and Jobs

Seattle – The three City of Seattle-authorized homeless encampments that were established as a result of the City’s March 30, 2015 ordinance, which permitted three encampments on City or private land, have successfully moved 57 residents of the encampments into transitional and permanent housing and assisted 40 residents in obtaining jobs. The nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) operates the encampments in partnership with Nickelsville and SHARE. LIHI employs two case managers, funded through the Seattle Human Services Department, to help families and individuals living in tiny houses and tents to access housing and an array of services and employment. “We have good news to report: in the month of June our case managers helped 13 people move into housing, seven into shelters and nine people got jobs. This frees up space for 20 other homeless people living in dangerous conditions on the street. The three city-supported encampments enable people to live in a safe place linked with services,” said Sharon Lee, LIHI Executive Director. No alcohol, drugs or weapons are allowed at the encampments.

The three encampments feature a mix of tiny houses (8’ x 12’) and tents on platforms. Most of the tiny houses have been built by volunteer labor, many through vocational training programs. Each tiny house costs about $2,200 for wood, insulation and building materials. Tiny houses recently added to Othello Village were built by the Tulalip Tribes TERO program, Sawhorse Revolution, Seattle Vocational Institute, Renton Technical College, and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Apprenticeship Training program.

From October 1, 2015 to June 28, 2016:

57 encampment residents moved to permanent or transitional housing (majority into LIHI housing)
30 encampment residents moved into other shelter
40 encampment residents found employment
3 encampment residents were reunited with relatives (LIHI provided transportation)

Locations and populations of encampments:

Nickelsville Ballard Encampment at 2826 NW Market Street: 21 residents
SHARE Interbay Encampment at 3234 17th Avenue W: 63 residents
Nickelsville Othello Village* at 7544 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S: 47 residents
* Othello Village opened March 8, 2016.

The Low Income Housing Institute owns and/or manages over 1,800 affordable apartments in the Puget Sound region. For more information about LIHI, please visit


Billy Frank Jr. Place – Groundbreaking Celebration May 27th

The Low Income Housing Institute invites you to the
Groundbreaking Ceremony for:

Billy Frank Jr. Place
43 affordable apartments in downtown Olympia

The Low Income Housing Institute invites you to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for Billy Frank Jr. Place on Friday, May 27th at 10:30am at 318 State Avenue NE, Olympia.

The building is named in honor of Native American environmental leader and treaty rights activist Billy Frank Jr., known for his grassroots campaign for tribal fishing rights in Washington. He was a member of the Nisqually Tribe. Frank 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.

Billy Frank Jr. Place will provide 43 units of affordable housing for low-income Olympia residents in a new, Evergreen 4-story building in downtown Olympia. The project will serve formerly homeless veterans and young adults, disabled individuals, and other members of the Olympia community.

Set to open in spring 2017, the project is just a block from the Olympia Transit Center, near parks, schools, shopping, jobs, the Olympia Center, and the city’s vibrant waterfront. Sited on a formerly vacant, reclaimed brownfield lot, Billy Frank Jr. Place will include amenities to help tenants to become more self-sufficient, including a group kitchen, computer lab, outdoor seating and gardening areas, and onsite case managers.

LIHI partners with area service providers, including the Veterans Administration, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, and Olympia nonprofit Community Youth Services. These organizations help place tenants at Billy Frank Jr. Place and provide the wrap-around services they need to succeed.

Bumgardner Architects designed the project and Pavilion Construction is the general contractor.

Thanks to the City of Olympia, LIHI acquired the land at a reduced cost. The project is financed with funding from the Washington State Housing Trust Fund, Low Income Housing Tax Credits from Enterprise Community Investment and the Washington State Housing Finance Commission, a grant from The Employees Community Fund of Boeing, and construction financing from Heritage Bank, which is headquartered in Olympia.

Come celebrate with us! To RSVP or for info, contact Aaron Long.

Thank you to our groundbreaking event sponsors: Enterprise, Heritage Bank and Pavilion Construction.

Othello Village Tent City Opens

March 7, 2016
Low Income Housing Institute

Seattle, WA – Othello Village, the third City of Seattle sanctioned tent encampment, will open March 8th at 7544 Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, in the Othello neighborhood of Southeast Seattle. The property owner Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) in partnership with Nickelsville will host the tiny house and tent community.

The village has 8 colorful tiny houses painted by volunteers in a variety of Caribbean colors. Each house is 8’ x 12’, insulated against the cold weather, and will provide temporary shelter for homeless families with children, couples and singles. Hundreds of volunteers from the community have worked tirelessly with LIHI and Nickelsville for the past three weekends to get Othello Village ready for occupancy. On March 8th three homeless families with infants and children will be moving into tiny houses. The children range in age from 4 months to six years old. Single adults and couples will also be moving into the houses and tents.

Fundraising is underway to build more tiny houses and the site will eventually have 16 houses. Othello Village will also have 22 tents on platforms, a kitchen/dining tent, food pantry, community tent, donations tent, counseling space, portable toilets and hand washing stations. A small commercial building on-site will provide restrooms and shower facilities. Click to Donate

The village will provide safe housing for individuals and families currently experiencing homelessness. While the City of Seattle permit allows for up to 100 residents, the village more likely house around 60 to 80 people. The village will be managed by Nickelsville, a self managed community, in partnership with LIHI. LIHI will provide social workers to move the residents into housing, help with employment, and access to healthcare, education and other services. Othello Village continues LIHI and Nickelsville’s innovative crisis response to homelessness by moving people into tiny houses instead of tents when possible. In November, 2015, LIHI and Nickelsville opened the Ballard Encampment, featuring 5 tiny houses plus tents, on city-owned land at 2826 NW Market Street, and in January, 2016, LIHI, Nickelsville, and the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd open the Tiny House Village with 14 houses on the church’s land at 1419 22nd Ave. in the Central Area.

LIHI Board President Melinda Nichols said: “The wonderful partnerships with pre-apprenticeship programs, volunteers, and donors that we formed in building the Ballard and Central Area tiny houses are really starting to pay off. The quick mobilization to build out Othello Village was amazing. Othello Village will help transition even more people into stable housing while living in community with others.” The organizations and pre-apprenticeship programs that are donating their time and energy to build the 16 tiny houses are Seattle Vocational Institute, Rebuilding Together Seattle, Tulalip Tribes, Hazel Wolf K-8, Mercer Island Presbyterian Church, YouthBuild, Renton Technical College, Wood Technology Center, Sawhorse Revolution, Walsh Construction Co. and others. Many organizations and individuals are donating money to purchase wood and building materials for the houses. Hazel Wolf K-8 students stand out in particular. They have purchased a tiny house and will be painting and furnishing it. Other school children designed the welcome banner shown in the attached photo.

LIHI Executive Director Sharon Lee said: “Contrary to the claims made by City’s homeless consultant Barbara Poppe, there is evidence and data showing that safe and secure encampments help people to survive and improve their lives. Since October, LIHI has moved 36 encampment residents into transitional or permanent housing and helped 22 people get jobs. Unfortunately Ms. Poppe did not visit any of the encampments before leaving town. If Ms. Poppe had taken the time to visit, the residents will tell her themselves that the quality of encampment life is high compared with living unsheltered and vulnerable on the streets. Thank you Mayor Murray and the Seattle City Council for supporting tent encampments. You help save lives!” Information from the King County medical examiner documented that 91 homeless men and women died living on the streets from violence and exposure in 2015 and 9 people have already died this year. Most recently, Alicia Nickerson, age 30, was found dead on February 23.

Othello Village will be have 24-hour security on the site. Everyone has chores to do and must follow a code of conduct. Nickelsville will take charge of referrals for those moving into the village. Kitty DeBerry, a current Nickelsville resident, believes that the tiny houses are a good alternative for people experiencing homelessness. “Housing, four solid walls and a door that can close out the world, this is an essential need for a person’s sense of safety, security and stability. The recent movement seen here in Washington, and throughout the nation, of supplying homeless populations with small housing units has shined a large ray of hope upon a population that can use all the hope it can find.”

Donations of blankets, flashlights, batteries, and canned goods are welcomed. Homeless individuals and families can come to Othello Village for intake on March 9th, Wednesday at 3pm or call (206) 450-9136.

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


LIHI to Develop Fire Station 39 Site in Lake City

LIHI’s Fire Station 39 project was announced yesterday as part of the Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s press conference on integrated city planning in Lake City neighborhood.

KIRO video
Mayor’s Press Release

The location is the old Fire Station 39, 12705 30th Ave NE.

The project will be workforce housing, around 70 units in a mix of studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

There will be four preschool classrooms on the first floor.

Construction is slated to start in August 2017 and finish in October 2018.