by Sarah Goh
On Thursday, May 5, the Southend Tiny House Village welcomed community leaders, volunteers, and advocates for its long-awaited grand opening. Located in South Seattle and a one-minute walk away from the Rainier Beach light rail station, the village will provide shelter and safety to an estimated 60 people. With a $250,000 grant from Lucky Seven Foundation and an additional $500,000 from King County Regional Homelessness Authority, Southend Village will officially open next Tuesday with residents moving in.
Each of the 40 tiny houses is 8 feet by 12 feet and fully furnished with insulation and a locking door. The village itself has 24/7 staffing and communal services, such as a kitchen, bathrooms, showers, laundry, and shared gathering spaces. Security offices along with a surrounding cedar fence are implemented for safety and emergencies.
The Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) will oversee the village in partnership with Truevine of Holiness Missionary Baptist Church.
“Too many people are sleeping outdoors in the cold and rain. We are glad that Southend Village will keep 60 more people safe and warm,” said Sharon Lee, LIHI executive director, in a press release. “Tiny houses save lives.”
Along with LIHI and Truevine, the Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) is a key partner in the Southend Village. In the past, ReWA has been a partner of LIHI on multiple sites, providing services such as early learning and child care. ReWA will be providing case management and behavioral health services in the Southend Village.
On-site case managers will help with services like employment and health care to transition villagers from their tiny houses to permanent housing. There are over 3,000 units of LIHI permanent housing that case managers will have a direct pipeline to.
“We’re here to provide self-sufficiency and advocacy,” Susan Lee from ReWA said.
ReWA will also bring eight of its services to the Southend location, including services that help with domestic violence, family empowerment, citizenship classes, and job referrals.
Other attendees and leaders of the community included City Councilmember Andrew Lewis (chair of the Public Assets and Homelessness Committee) and Evelyn Chow, a representative from the office of City Councilmember Tammy Morales.
Lewis originally partnered with LIHI to start the initiative “It Takes a Village” to expand the number of tiny houses in Seattle. Their goal was to raise private and public money while reaching out to people willing to use their private lots for tiny houses. Their call to action was answered, and with the help of volunteers and local organizations, Southend Village came together.
“This project is the people of Seattle coming together and saying we are not letting our neighbors live in tents anymore, we are letting them live with dignity,” Lewis said. “And that is what we are celebrating today.”
For one speaker and attendee, Tracy Williams, the Southend Village is a symbol of new beginnings and a reminder of her own story with tiny houses. Williams moved into the Yesler Tiny House Village, True Hope Village, in January 2020.
“Being in a tiny house gave me the opportunity to get back on my feet,” Williams said, “because when you’re out on the streets, you can’t take care of your mental health or anything else.”
Williams says her Tiny House Village helped her find permanent housing and employment. Williams says she never imagined herself moving into a new building, and now appreciates tiny houses for their ability to help others like herself. Today, she works with LIHI helping others find a home and services in tiny house communities.
“When I moved into a tiny house, I didn’t love or care about myself,” Williams said, “and now I love the person that I am today.”
Sarah Goh is a Singaporean American journalist who is also a medical student at WSU College of Medicine. At the intersection of community, science, and humanities, she hopes to elevate marginalized voices and explore the overlooked and unexpected through her writing. Find her at sarahsgoh.com or on Twitter @sarahsgoh.
📸 Featured Image: Visitors tour the Southend Tiny House Village, 9109 Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, near the Rainier Beach light rail station. (Photo: Phil Manzano)
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