Rainier Beach tiny home village opens after securing funding

Supporters of a newly-built tiny home village celebrated its grand opening after it sat vacant for weeks, lacking the operational funding to get going.

Southend Village will serve people in the area of Rainier Beach and South Seattle.

"This is a lifesaver, you know," said Tracy Williams. "It saved my life."

Williams was homeless in 2020, and when she was offered the chance to live in a tiny home village—similar to the new Southend Tiny House Village—it changed her life.

"When I moved in, I was very hopeless," said Williams.

She said the stability of the village and the case managers working there helped to turn things around for her within six months.

"I got the ball rolling, turned in all my documents that were needed to get permanent housing," said Williams. "You are safe in there. There are heaters and fans, so you are warm."

"They are fully insulated. They have heat, electricity, a locking door. People can secure their possessions, which is a big deal," said Josh Castle, Advocacy and Community Engagement Director with the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI). 

Castle showed FOX 13 News one of the 40 units that was newly ready for a resident to move in.

"The village is fully funded, and we are thrilled to share that," said Castle. 

LIHI Executive Director Sharon Lee said a last-minute $250,000 grant from the Lucky Seven Foundation came through to fund operations. The King County Regional Homelessness Authority also agreed to an additional $500,000 in operating costs for this year.

'Tiny home' village sits empty until operating funds surface

The Low Income Housing Institute says a brand-new 'tiny home' village in Seattle is ready to admit clients in immediate need of housing, but funding that at one time was hoped to come from King County was instead awarded to other projects.

"On the Southend Tiny Home Village that has been under question, we did identify COVID relief dollars that can be used to close the gap," said the organization's CEO, Marc Dones.

Dones explained where the funding was coming from during a meeting earlier in the week.

"We have identified a source of funds, have communicated with [Lee] with regard to our ability to move forward with one-time funding," said Dones. "The broader operational future of that village will have to be secured through ongoing operations and services support, which over the course of our budget conversations with King County and the City of Seattle, we would hope to identify." 

Lee had expressed concern last week that the Homelessness Authority wasn't funding the tiny house village because the leadership may have had a preference for other housing options. 

"When they came to town, they decided they didn’t like tiny houses and were negative to tiny houses. So, we were very concerned," said Lee.

It's something Dones has previously denied.

"As a reminder, this was ranked fourth in our competitive bidding process and did not include the information that the village was already built," said Dones during a meeting this week.

Despite the delay, the funding for operations is now in place.

"This is an opportunity to bring people out of the rain, out of the cold," said Lee. 

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Tracy Williams now works for LIHI as a village coordinator at a different location. She feels the new Southend Village will help others on the road to a new life. 

"I am excited for all the ones that have the opportunity to come here, and we are going to continue building so we get more and more off the streets," said Williams. "I’ve been in their shoes."

Lee said that people can start moving into the Southend Village as early as Tuesday.