Addressing Homelessness with a Tiny-Home Village in Olympia, Washington

Addressing Homelessness with a Tiny-Home Village in Olympia, Washington

This story was reposted from another source.

Quixote Village, a self-governed community with 30 cottages and communal space in Olympia, Washington, was awarded a 2015 Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence for its innovative approach to providing permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless adults. The village began as a tent camp in a public parking lot that was set up to protest an ordinance prohibiting the city’s homeless population from sitting and lying on sidewalks. The camp has evolved into a permanent supportive community that has changed local perceptions and approaches to the issue of homelessness.

A New Approach for Olympia
The protest by homeless persons and advocates, which began in 2007, highlighted a disconnect between the needs of Olympia’s homeless population and the city’s efforts to address them. According to Tim Ransom, board president of Panza, an organization formed to support the homeless, Olympia had a “rudimentary” understanding of homelessness; “The city’s response was to try to hide homelessness.” Thirty homeless adults set up tents in what they called Camp Quixote hoping that permanent housing would result. The camp quickly met with resistance, however, when city police vowed to remove the tents and arrest protestors who did not cooperate. In response to this pressure, a local Unitarian Universalist church offered its grounds as a temporary location for the camp.

Support for the protestors grew as church leaders in the cities of Olympia, Tumwater, and Lacey and in Thurston County stepped forward to provide temporary space for Camp Quixote. The faith community was able to convince each of the jurisdictions to pass ordinances to legalize homeless camps on religious property as a temporary use for up to six months. Panza, which was formed out of this initial relationship between the camp and faith communities, organized volunteers to support Camp Quixote’s system of self-governance, daily operations, and moves from church to church when each temporary use elapsed. Even with a high level of volunteer support, the camp continued to be self-governing; residents established a code of conduct, attended weekly meetings to enforce the code and address issues of communal living, and elected a leadership group every six months to assign chores, collect dues, and purchasesupplies.