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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Halloween finds a home at Unity Village

Unity Village resident Tina Hayes poses for a picture in front of her tiny home on Monday, Oct. 28. Hayes decorated her home for Halloween. // Photo by Ella Banken

By Ella Banken

With Halloween only a day away, Unity Village residents are preparing to open their gates to neighborhood trick-or-treaters. 

The tiny house community on 210 McKenzie Ave. is planning its first holiday open house event, HomesNOW! board member Doug Gustafson said. Unity Village will be open for trick-or-treaters from 6 – 8 on Halloween night. 

Amid an ongoing investigation of former HomesNOW! board members, this event is important for community resilience said Tina Hayes, Unity Village resident.

“After what we’ve been through, it pulls us together as a community,” Hayes said. 

As much as the event is for the neighborhood, it’s a celebration for the residents of Unity Village as well.

Hayes has taken the lead on decorating the camp. Cobwebs and skeletons hang from the ceiling of the welcome desk, and her own purple and teal house is covered in festive decor from her personal collection. 

“I have four kids. I’ve been decorating for years,” Hayes laughed. 

Every year for Halloween, Hayes’ family coordinates a group costume. Last year, it was superheroes. Hayes puts together all the costumes for her children and grandchildren. Some items she even makes by hand, including a Batgirl mask for her granddaughter out of a pop can. 

Hayes said all 10 of her grandchildren will be coming to the Halloween event on Thursday, Oct. 31. 

“I wouldn’t trade my time here for the world,” Hayes said.“These houses allow us to be with our families, near our kids.”

Gustafson said the event will be the second open house at Unity Village. The first was the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the camp in September. 

Unity Village is open to the public all the time, Gustafson said. People are always welcome to come visit. 

Other than handling logistics, Gustafson is leaving the event planning to the residents.

“[The residents] want people to see Unity Village, and see that they’re okay,” Gustafson said. 

Hayes said it’s important for people to understand that just because the residents  are unhoused, doesn’t mean they are any different. 

Kids who have visited previously are enchanted by the colorful tiny homes. They’ve been called Skittle houses, Crayon houses and even Willy Wonka’s lollipop shop, Hayes said. 

“Everyone gets excited when kids visit,” Hayes said. “We have a big box of games. We can play all day.”

Unity Village, located across the street from Fairhaven Station, is just down the hill from the historic Fairhaven neighborhood, where kids from all over Bellingham come to trick-or-treat at businesses every year. 

It is estimated that 2,000 kids will walk the streets of Fairhaven in search of candy this year, according to Mariah Austin, employee at Fairhaven Toy Garden. The toy store is one of many Fairhaven businesses who will be handing out treats on Thursday. 

“It’ll be hectic, but a fun time,” Austin said. 

According to Hayes, Unity Village is on the direct pathway that families take from downtown Fairhaven up to the surrounding neighborhoods, so she expects a lot of people will stop by. 

Unity Village is accepting donations of candy or decorations to prepare for Thursday’s event. Not everyone at the camp has the means to distribute candy, but Hayes is determined. 

“If I have to spend my last $10 in food stamps on candy, I will,” Hayes said jokingly.

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