The homelessness crisis in the Puget Sound region has been years in the making and the roots run deep, but one Mercer Island church is taking action.
During the month of April, the Mercer Island United Methodist Church (MIUMC) will be building a Tiny House to help the homeless. The church raised funds to cover the costs for the project and is currently building under the guidance of contractor Dale Hoff and the direction of Tom and Mary Ann Kofler.
“It’s part of my belief as a Methodist and a Christian that we care for those who are in need,” said church member Carol Mariano. “The society is as good as its weakest member. If we don’t take care of those who are struggling, our society is weaker because of that.”
Mariano said homelessness seems to be a big problem — a growing problem.
In 2018, 12,112 individuals were experiencing homelessness in Seattle/King County and 52 percent of that population was unsheltered. The 2018 count showed a 4-percent increase from 2017.
MIUMC has a history of reaching out to the homeless. In 2008 the church hosted Tent City Three in their parking lot for three months. But with the city’s decision to restrict future homeless camps, Mariano said the church still searched for ways to help those in need.
In December 2018, Mariano heard of the Tiny Home Building Project that was directed by Hoff. Hoff is the project creator and manager of Building Dreams: 12 Tiny Homes for the Homeless in 2018.
Talking about the birth of his project, Hoff said the homeless problem in Seattle was getting overwhelming. Everyone was talking about the housing problem but no one really knew what to do. But Hoff decided to do something about it.
The semi-retired home builder thought hard about what he could do and realized building a tiny home could be the solution.
Hoff set a goal of building one tiny house a month.
“We are helping people who are facing homelessness get off the streets,” Hoff said. “I’m not saying we’re serving the homeless. That kind of implies that they’re the other and they’re always going to be there. But I’m saying no…We’re just dealing with people who lost their job, who got divorced or [maybe] drugs… it could have happened to any of us.”
Hoff’s tiny homes were all delivered to the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) Tiny House Village sites in Seattle.
In partnership with the city of Seattle, SHARE/WHEEL, Nickelsville and partners throughout the state of Washington, LIHI is now one of the largest providers of Tiny House community shelters in the nation. The Tiny House community shelters ensure that people’s experience in homelessness is safe, dignified and as brief as possible.
With 10 sites in Seattle and a recent one opening in Olympia, the Tiny House program offers great benefits over tents. The tiny homes are safe, weatherproof and lockable. Each tiny house has electricity, overhead light and a heater. Each tiny house village has a kitchen, restroom facilities, onsite showers, laundry, a counseling office and a welcome/security hut where donations of food clothing, and hygiene items can be dropped off.
Each tiny house costs about $2,500 to build, transport and paint. All homes must be 8 feet wide or smaller, under 10 feet tall, and 120 feet squared to be legal structures. Two windows minimum is preferred.
Under Hoff’s direction, the MIUMC hopes to learn how to build a tiny house and possibly more in the future.
Mercer Island residents can stop by the church to see progress on the building project as volunteers work to bring it to completion.
To donate toward the project, make a check out to Mercer Island United Methodist Church, with “Tiny House Project” in the memo.
MIUMC is located on 7070 SE 24th St., Mercer Island.