Bainbridge Island is on record for wanting to provide more affordable housing.
It’s hard to find housing more affordable than Tiny Houses with the Low Income Housing Institute.
Bainbridge Artisan Resouce Network built such a house recently over four days using community volunteers. It was such a success that BARN project leader David Grant and his son Jon of the institute hope to do it again. “We want to do more of this in the future,” the older Grant said, adding dozens of people volunteered – so many some had to be turned away.
The easing of COVID-19 restrictions made the project possible. “Thanks to the reopening, BARN volunteers can start some community service projects that have been on hold,” a BARN email says. For example, the BARN Woodshop recently helped with a community thrift store in Kingston. The BARN Woodshop built the tiny house using plans and materials supplied by the nonprofit institute through Lowe’s.
The institute operates eight Tiny House Villages with 442 houses in Seattle, Olympia and Tacoma. Five more villages with 173 units are scheduled to open this year in Skyway, Bellingham and Seattle. The houses are insulated and dry, but they don’t have kitchens or bathrooms. Each village provides shared dining and bathing facilities. Some are for single residents, others for families. To get into a home, people have to agree to see a case worker to help them with their mental health so they can eventual move on to other housing and get a job.
BARN team leaders with construction experience mentored the volunteers that made a single-person dwelling. People of all skill levels participated and learned how to use various tools.
Tammy Galbraith said she volunteered even though she didn’t have much experience. “I’m a quick learner,” she said. “I like to serve the community and provide basic needs.”
Anne Laird said she has some basic skills, but didn’t feel too useful. “I have an interest in tiny houses,” she said. “I support construction for the homeless and people at-risk.”
Jon Grant said the tiny houses have been a growing model for the homeless during the pandemic. They did cost about $2,500 each, but since lumber prices have skyrocketed they now cost about $4,000 each. “This is a vehicle to get people back into housing,” he said, adding chronic homeless often don’t feel safe, but they like the tiny houses. They have a better chance of succeeding because they also are connected to social services.
“They may have failed in the past,” he said of the support system, but this “breaks down barriers. It starts to ring true and restore dignity.” He said they can’t get the tiny houses built fast enough. There is a huge waiting list. Some have been around so long they need to be replaced.
Jon Grant said they also need more places to put the housing. Many of the sites are faith-based, but they also could use port or other government property. They even are willing to work with private property owners. “If we get access to a site we’ll do all the work,” he said.
Jon Grant grew up on BI and graduated from Bainbridge High School in 2000. “It’s great to see my hometown rally around homelessness,” he said.