TULALIP – More than a dozen Native American pre-apprentice students studying construction hope the tiny houses they’ve built will help homeless people get back on their feet.
During the last weeks, the students at The Tulalip Construction Training Center have constructed two tiny houses, about 8′ x 12′ and the size of a bedroom, that are earmarked for Nickelsville Homeless Encampment in Seattle.
“I feel like it could turn someone around,” said Philip Falcon, a 21-year old from the Coeur D’Alene Tribe in Idaho. “A roof over their head, they feel secure. They can secure themselves and move on.”
Sharon Lee, Executive Director of The Low Income Housing Institute said the group paid for the wood and materials, about $1,800 total, and that they hope eventually 15 homes will go on church-owned property.
“We have had a woman with a broken leg in a wheelchair. She’s a victim of domestic violence,” Lee said about Nickelsville as she stood in one of the houses Monday. “She’s in a wheelchair with a broken leg and a little kid living in a tent. It’s absurd.”
Each shelter is smaller than 120 square feet, which falls under less strict permitting rules in the city of Seattle. Lee said these homes have insulation and could eventually be hooked up for lighting or heat as they work with the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd to host the houses at a new site in the Central District.
“It makes a big difference. We’ve had so many families with young children and the kids are – can you imagine – trying to do their homework by flashlight? So here at least there will be electricity,” she said. “This will feel like – not the perfect home. But it’ll feel like a home with privacy, with walls.”
Before students received a diploma and a ceremonial hammer from the Tulalip Tribal Employment Rights Office Monday, they heard from John Hord, who currently lives in a tent at Nickelsville. Hord is a Chippewa from Minnesota and a carpenter. About four and a half months ago, he lost his housing.
“Nickelsville isn’t about being accepted into Nickelsville – here’s where I’m going to stay the rest of my life – Nickelsville is a platform to build on and make the next step in life,” he said. “Way into the future – hopefully 15, 20 years from now those structures are still going to be changing people’s lives.”