Ribbon-cutting at Nickelsville Georgetown

Date Posted: 06.14.2017

Housing affordability has become a critical issue within communities across the nation, and homelessness is at the front and center of our minds. With approximately 11,000 individuals experiencing homelessness in the Seattle area, many at Mithun have been striving to dig in and help address this issue. Through the initiative and volunteer efforts of some of our staff members, Mithun has been providing pro-bono conceptual planning services to the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) for a tiny house community in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood.

A ribbon-cutting event was held on June 7th to celebrate the placement of Nickelsville Georgetown’s final six structures, delivered by Sawhorse Revolution and constructed by local youth. The community is the product of incredible partnerships and volunteer labor from diverse fabricators, vendors, designers, students, politicians, citizens, the homeless community, and initiatives like the Tulalip Tribes TERO pre-apprenticeship program for Native Americans.

“Providing a framework for community to form within safe and dignified homes gets directly to the purpose of our work: Design for Positive Change,” explains Mithun designer Barron Peper, referring to the clustered organization of houses. “Residents frequently share their excitement and personal additions to the village, inviting visitors to ‘come look at my backyard!’”

Seattle’s first tiny house village for homeless residents opened in January 2016 in the Central District. The Georgetown location is one of three new city-sanctioned sites opened since then in response to the mayor’s declaration of a state of emergency on homelessness.

With capacity to shelter 60 to 70 people, Nickelsville Georgetown includes 40 tiny houses along with counseling offices, a kitchen tent, gathering areas and tents that will be used for emergency overflow shelter when all the tiny houses are filled. The city-owned site is located at 1000 S. Myrtle Street and will be run by Nickelsville, an organization founded and managed by people experiencing homelessness, in partnership with LIHI.

At a March event marking the Georgetown site opening, LIHI executive director Sharon Lee said that Seattle’s tiny house communities have helped more than 900 people not suffer on the streets and under bridges. She also recently shared perspective into the history and potential of tiny houses to help Seattle’s homeless via Crosscut: “While a tiny house may seem like a teeny idea, it can help save a life.”

Mithun’s Barron Peper invites others to participate: “We joined a strong and devoted team of non-profits, volunteers, students and government agencies to make a difference. And yet, I can’t help but recognize the untapped potential in our community. We—and the people we’re supporting—could use more devoted partners.”

In addition to this tiny house community planning effort, Mithun has designed supportive housing for formerly homeless families, seniors and individuals in San Francisco. Projects include 1180 Fourth Street developed by Mercy Housing California, Sansome and Broadway Family Housing developed by Chinatown Community Development Center, and Zygmundt Arendt House completed with Community Housing Partnership.