Did you catch this New York Times story on Camp Quixote, a former tent city in Olympia, Washington? They've become Quixote Village, a cluster of 144-square-foot cabins:
It is rare that folks who live on the street have the chance to collaborate on a 2.1-acre, $3.05 million real estate development. Nearly as surprising is that Quixote Village may become a template for homeless housing projects across the country...
Some advantages to building small are obvious. Ginger Segel, of the nonprofit developer Community Frameworks, points to construction costs at Quixote Village of just $19,000 a unit (which included paying labor at the prevailing commercial wage). Showers, laundry and a shared kitchen have been concentrated in a community center. When you add in the cost of site preparation and the community building, the 30 finished units cost $88,000 each.
By comparison, Ms. Segel, 48, said, “I think the typical studio apartment for a homeless adult in western Washington costs between $200,000 and $250,000 to build.” In a sense, though, the difference is meaningless. Olympia and surrounding Thurston County hadn’t built any such housing for homeless adults since 2007.
You should go check out the pictures. And if it makes you feel like Seattle and King County are just dying for some creative solutions for our homeless population, you're not the only one.
"We should take a page out of Olympia's book and create a network of decent housing for people across King County," says Seattle City Council member Sally Bagshaw in a blog post today. She throws some ideas out there, like setting a countywide goal for housing—say, 1,000 units to start with—then "prorat[ing] the amount of housing that each city assumes, based on population" and/or "having property-rich cities such as Medina contribute their pro-rata value share to help build on sites in unincorporated King County."
She also recommends "a friendly design competition to design and construct decent housing at a reasonable cost countywide," adding that "something like Quixote Village could work in some locations," while in other places, dorm-style units or "auxiliary dwelling unit designs," like mother-in-law units would work. "Or," she goes on, "go whole-hog and invite our local designers to create homes using recycled materials or fancy up some shipping containers."
She closes with: "Dow? Ed? Will you work with me on this?"
Acknowledging, like Bagshaw does, that there are thousands of people sleeping outside tonight and every night, what do we plan to do about it? The council shot down the basic harm-reduction strategy of further legalizing and regulating encampments last year with a bunch of garbage about how homeless people "deserve better." They do—they deserve better than being patronized or ignored. Seattle must start creating solutions that (1) house people ASAP and (2) have buy-in from the populations you're trying to house. That, along with a lot of work by activists, sounds like it's what made Quixote Village a reality.