Volunteers hoist the first wall into place during the tiny home build event at Safe Haven May 11, 2019. // Photo by Zack Jimenez
HomesNOW! Not Later staff, along with volunteers, Safe Haven residents and a mayoral candidate, joined together to build the first of 20 satellite rooms at Safe Haven on Saturday, May 11, the first step to replacing the tents in the encampment.
According to Rachel Duval, public liaison for HomesNOW!, a satellite room qualifies as a tent with walls, or a tiny bedroom. This first satellite room will serve as the staff office and conference room for advocacy meetings or one-on-one meetings with residents. Because the staff is required to stay overnight at the site, it will also serve as the staff bedroom, Duval said.
At the April 8 Whatcom County Council meeting, Jim Peterson, the president of HomesNOW!, told the council that their plan is to no longer have tent encampments, but to continue on with tiny homes. Peterson said this is what HomesNOW! started working towards two years ago, and it is a goal they will continue moving forward with.
“This is the first step in Jim’s dream,” Duval said. “It’s amazing, it’s gone so smoothly, and to be a part of it is even more amazing.”
These satellite rooms will not be tiny homes, but single bedrooms. According to Duval, HomesNOW! is keeping the community kitchen and bathrooms in order to retain the community aspect of the encampment.
According to Duval, the city has approved a new site for the encampment where they will move when Safe Haven concludes in July. HomesNOW! is not at liberty to say where just yet, Duval said.
Many residents of Safe Haven were present on the site for the build, including Julie Anderson. Anderson said she came to Bellingham about three weeks prior to this event and has been living in Safe Haven for the majority of that time.
“The people here are awesome and really here to help people achieve their goals,” Anderson said. “My goals are to get housing and to get some stability in my life.”
Anderson’s daily routine at Safe Haven consists of building relationships with the community and tending to the site. Every resident at Safe Haven is required to do six hours of greeting and six hours of security per week, unless they have an outside form of employment, she said.
Garrett O’Brien, a lifelong resident of Bellingham and current Bellingham mayoral candidate, volunteered his 25 years of building experience to the cause, he said.
“My friend said she was coming out today and asked me if I wanted to come along,” O’Brien said. “I own a construction company, so it’s a good way for me to get in there and help out. It’s been a lot of fun.”