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HomesNOW! to build their first tiny home at Safe Haven

A “Homes Now Not Later” sign sits on a pile of pallets at SafeHaven on May 6, 2019. // Photo by Zack Jimenez

By Mallory Biggar

Nearly a month after its transition from Winter Haven to Safe Haven, HomesNOW! is making plans to turn their tents into tiny homes.

Jim Peterson, president of HomesNOW!, and the city planning department discussed replacing one tent in Safe Haven with a tiny home, according to Lisa Pool, a senior planner with the City of Bellingham.

Safe Haven, located at 620 Alabama St., is a temporary safe camping site for the Bellingham and Whatcom County homeless community, which requires a rigorous application process upon admittance, according to a previous Western Front article.

Peterson said HomesNOW! came to an agreement with the city to replace one of the tents at Safe Haven with a tiny home by May 11. Peterson said he hopes that by Nov. 1 of this year, Safe Haven can substitute tents with tiny homes at the new site.

Doug Gustafson, the technical director of HomesNOW!, said the city has approved a new site for the camp to relocate to once Safe Haven’s 90-day permit is up. The site will begin with seven tiny homes and 13 tents, and the tents will gradually transition out as tiny homes are built. It would cost an estimated $50,000 to build 20 tiny homes, according to Gustafson.

“We have already raised the money for the first tiny home, which is going to be constructed at Safe Haven,” he said. “It’s being built as a prototype so the city and the public can see the structures we’re talking about for final approval.”

As for Safe Haven, with 20 residents, the camp is currently running strong, according to Peterson.

At the Whatcom County Council meeting on April 23, members of the HomesNOW! Board of Directors Rachel Duval, Gustafson and Peterson spoke on behalf of Safe Haven and about the data they’ve collected from the camp so far.

“We’ve had to evict some residents because they can’t follow our rules, but at the same time it’s worked out,” Gustafson said at the meeting. “We [have] six residents permanently housed outside of the camp.”

Around 72% of residents are over the age of 40, with 70% of residents also having a source of income. Sixty percent of residents have a chronic medical condition, Gustafson said.

Safe Haven conducts an exit poll when residents leave, either by choice or eviction, Gustafson said. According to the poll, 60% of residents were not evicted, 20% were evicted for multiple reasons, 10% were evicted because they were not a good fit and 10% were evicted for drug and alcohol related issues.

“We’re not trying to keep people at our camp forever; it’s meant to be temporary,” Gustafson said. “You get a little bit of help, you get a place to store your stuff, a kitchen, electricity, water. After a certain amount of time, you save up a little bit of money, then you don’t need to stay at the camp anymore.”

HomesNOW! is hosting a building event for their first tiny home Saturday, May 11, where community members can help them build or make food for the workers, according to their facebook event page.

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