Faith communities responding to homelessness.
The Faith Alliance Initiative for Tiny Houses (FAITH) is an organization of faith communities whose purpose is to encourage the development of tiny house solutions to homelessness in Olympia and the surrounding areas in partnership with each other and with the City of Olympia.
The members of FAITH are committed to explore the creation of tiny house facilities on their property or other property jointly managed by faith communities, other NGOs or the City. All faith communities in the Olympia area are invited to join the organization, attend FAITH meetings, explore the issues raised by tiny house communities and make use of the resources we have developed.
FAITH was founded on November 1, 2018 and grew to seven members and six associated faith communities by December 2018. We have created a Task Force to work with the City of Olympia to develop its pilot partnership program for faith communities and help identify the City requirements for tiny house facilities. We are also working to identify possible tiny house sites, and are planning to help with coordinating the construction of Tiny Houses. We are developing resources to support faith communities interested in tiny house projects.
Background on Homelessness and the City of Olympia's Response
The City of Olympia has stated that “Homelessness is the most significant and urgent public concern facing our community.” This is an issue for the Greater Olympia area and Thurston County has counted more than 800 homeless people on a single day in the county, with over 300 camping out in downtown Olympia as of December 2018.
Homeless people include those living in their cars, on the streets or in encampments in the wooded areas near town or out of town. This population has a complex mix of long-term homeless, those that have lost their jobs recently or have had medical expenses that led to their losing their homes. For some the abuse of drugs or some form of mental illness has contributed to the problem. Some have low-level incomes but which is not enough to pay for the rising cost of apartments or shared housing. Many are taking strides to escape homelessness, but this is not easy without access to food and water.
The City of Olympia declared homelessness to be a public health emergency requiring urgent action in May 2018 and has prepared a Homelessness Response Plan. Under this plan the City has taken actions to fund emergency shelters and the Community Care Center services to homeless people, constructing the Plum Street Tiny House Village and creating a Mitigation Site for downtown campers to provide basic safety and sanitation.
City of Olympia Pilot Partnership Program for Faith Communities
The City of Olympia has created a Pilot Partnership Program to support Emergency Housing Facilities and “provide support services to enable faith communities and non-profits to establish and manage tiny house and transitional shelter facilities on public or private properties to house homeless people.”
This program started in January 2019 and it provides funding and support for both small (1-6 house) projects and medium-sized projects (10-15 houses). Non-profit and faith communities would host and manage these tiny house facilities on their property with City-contracted support. The faith community is expected to build and supply the tiny houses.
We expect the City to provide the following services to faith communities at City expense under this program:
1. Screening of potential candidates for tiny houses (with criteria provided by the faith community)
2. Provision of portable sanitary facilities
3. Provision for removal of trash
4. Linkage to social service providers for aiding residents to deal with mental issues, find jobs and transition to better housing
5. A sample Code of Conduct contract format for residents to sign with the managing non-profit and the faith community
6. Support and management of a public information meeting to engage with the surrounding neighborhood.
The City will require a non-discrimination agreement to be signed as part of this program.
The official description of the Pilot Program.is available here.
Applying to Host Emergency Housing Facilities
- Faith community gets list of all the required info for application on line
- Faith community can set up a field visit by City Staff to review site (optional)
- Faith community and City set date for Pre-intake Meeting to answer questions
- Intake Meeting to review all documents and approve application
- If application is approved, the public information meeting date will be determined and notices sent by City
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Everyone deserves a Home.
FAITH: A Community of Communities that are building Communities
What are Tiny Houses?
There is a range of housing that are called tiny houses. However for purposes of faith communities we are targeting very small houses that can be purchased for under $3000 but provide shelter, insulation, heating and a bed with a lockable door. (show pictures of the two options).
There are two houses which qualify under these criteria:
1. A traditional wood structure design by the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) of Seattle
This can be constructed in a few days by a construction crew with relatively little experience but good construction skills. Precut elements can be ordered from a local Home Depot with a parts list.
2. A Conestoga Hut shelter designed by Community-Supported Shelter from Eugene OR
This is a modular tiny house with a rounded roof. This can be purchased in modular form from CSS and shipped to Olympia along with a construction instructor. It can be built in one day with a crew of 5-6 people with relatively little experience.