As the population of homeless residents in Puget Sound continues to grow, a Mercer Island church has decided to lend an even bigger hand to the under-served group.
The Mercer Island Presbyterian Church is getting ready to put finishing touches on two tiny homes members constructed to shelter those without. Glo Ceteznik, the church’s communications director, said the congregation provides hot meals and lunches to the homeless, but decided to get more involved and partner with the Low Income Housing Institute, which has created tiny home communities in King County.
“It was great, it went quickly and people were having a good time building,” she said. “It just was really a good experience for us, but more importantly, we hope it will help some people out of tents or off the street.”
The homes are not meant to be a permanent solution to homelessness, but they allow people a stepping stone of sorts to get them off the streets in the short-term. The homes are roughly 8 by 12 feet, have a lockable door and two windows. They’re insulated and will have the ability to hook up to a power supply. Ceteznik wasn’t sure where the houses would end up, but Burien and Interbay are likely locations.
The houses cost around $6,000 to create with the bill being footed by the church’s mission fund.
“We feel like we’re called to work outside, both locally and in the world, to work with partners who have firsthand experience with the issues that we’re concerned about,” Ceteznik said.
Dave and Susan Williamson were an integral part of the effort too. Susan Williamson got interested in building tiny homes a couple years ago when the couple helped build two previous houses for the Capital Hill tiny house village.
“She was looking for a way to tangibly help with the obvious homeless challenge in Seattle,” Dave Williamson said.
The couple attend the Mercer Island Presbyterian Church and were contacted by the mission director to see if they could get a team together to build more houses. The actual building of the two most recent tiny houses was a group effort of around 20 volunteers who built the houses over two days. After a few more finishing touches, they will be ready to ship out in coming weeks.
Dave Williamson said the congregation could always provide money to organizations but felt it was also important to donate their time and labor. By constructing the houses as a team of volunteers, they kept the Low Income Housing Institute from expending labor costs.
“It’s seeing the dire need to address the homeless situation that really drove us to think about what we could do in a tangible way to help,” he said.
Dave Williamson said there’s a lot of interest in building more houses in the future if there continues to be a need for them.
The homelessness crisis has been worsening in recent years not only in Seattle but across the West Coast. According to the 2017 Point-In-Time Count, there were 11,643 people experiencing homelessness across King County, with nearly 5,500 of those living outside of a shelter or transitional housing.