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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Tiny house village expects to open in Bellingham

Gardenview village in service to unsheltered residents

A tiny house with an orange door in a tiny house village operated by the Low Income Housing Institute in Seattle, Wash.
A tiny house with an orange door in a tiny house village operated by the Low Income Housing Institute in Seattle, Wash. Bellingham will establish its own tiny house village this spring. // Courtesy of Low Income Housing Institute

By Adela Cruz

The City of Bellingham announced a partnership with a local agency, Road2Home, and service provider, Low Income Housing Institute, to establish a tiny house village called Gardenview Village at 1399 Woburn Street. The tiny house village is expected to open for houseless residents toward the end of spring 2021, according to the announcement made Feb. 24. 

Since Camp 210 sweepings in January, there has been a rise in awareness that houselessness is an issue, which Whatcom County is now addressing.

From November to December 2020, the Bellingham City Council sought out partnerships with qualified providers by evaluating them on their experience in operating tiny house villages, according to the request for qualifications

“The City’s permitting process is pretty simple. It basically says, show us a plan for what you are going to do, and tell us how it will be done safely for all people concerned. By intention the city does not impose a lot of restrictions or requirements, leaving that to the sponsoring organization to build a program to match their strengths,” said Michael Lilliquist, Bellingham city council representative.  

Road2Home and LIHI will be the primary operators of the Gardenview Village. 

Gardenview Village will join two other tiny house villages in Bellingham — Unity Village and Swift Haven — which is operated by HomesNow!

President of Road2Home Melissa Bird said Gardenview Village will be a sober facility, so residents would have to comply with that rule. A case manager will work onsite with residents to achieve permanent housing, but there is no time limit for occupancy at this time, Bird said. 

“A typical 8-by-12 tiny house can hold 1-4 people — usually, just individuals or couples are assigned to a tiny house, but in some cases, if we have a family, they are divided into two houses,” said Josh Castle, the director of advocacy and community engagement at Low Income Housing Institute.

These villages have communal kitchens, restroom facilities, showers and laundry. Tiny houses are considered more dignified and beneficial over typical tent shelters because they are safer, waterproof and have heat, electricity and lockable doors, according to the Low Income Housing Institute.

According to the Road2Home website, Gardenview Village plans to accommodate 30 to 50 people and will have trained staff on-site 24/7 for case management, security and operations support. 

The estimated operating cost for Gardenview Village is anywhere between $500,000-1,000,000, primarily because of the 24/7 on-site case managers.

“Road2Home will offer a higher level of service and support and emphasize people who may have higher need or medical conditions and disabilities,” said Lilliquist.

The local nonprofit agency, Road2Home, funded by Bellingam residents, will follow a slightly different model than two villages, Unity Village and Swift Haven, already established in Bellingham.

“Although there have been some bumps in the road, and a few shortcomings are still evident, the tiny homes run by HomesNOW! have worked out pretty well,” Lilliquist said. “The tiny home villages have been embraced by neighbors. [Tiny House villages] are not ‘drop-in’ shelters. There are expectations. The residents take responsibility for running the village.”

Adela Cruz is a former reporter for the Front.

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