Tacoma approves new homeless micro-shelter village at church

VIDEO: Tacoma City Council approves new micro-shelter

TACOMA, Wash. — Tacoma City Council voted Tuesday to move forward with opening a new emergency micro-shelter site at First Christian Church of Tacoma that will have 40 units and house as many as 60 homeless people at a time, with priority given to families with children, couples, single women and people with pets.

Council approved a $2.2 million agreement with Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) to develop and maintain the tiny house village near North Orchard Street and Sixth Avenue through June 30, 2023. The city said there will be around the clock on-site support, services, required engagement with case management staff and security, including surveillance cameras.

The city that’s paying for the temporary micro-shelter site with state and federal funding, also approved a $3,000 monthly lease agreement Tuesday with First Christian Church of Tacoma to use the land on the church property.

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“We think the tiny house community will make our community safer, more welcoming, more whole,” said First Christian Church of Tacoma Sr. Pastor Barbara Blaisdell during Tuesday’s council meeting.

Most people who spoke during the city council public comment period expressed support for opening the new homeless village, that the city said will have background checks, be fenced off and won’t allow alcohol and drugs.

“I am wholly in support,” said one man who identified himself as a father living nearby. “Kind of spread the load of helping fight homeless problems that too often end up in one area.”

One person who spoke at the meeting questioned why nearby neighbors weren’t informed of the city’s plans sooner. Another, speaking in opposition to the city’s plans, said, “It’s been poorly done. I’ve lived here 32 years and I think this is a slap in the face.”

“For all the people who have concerns, every time we do this we have these concerns and none of them come to fruition,” said Tacoma City Councilmember Catherine Ushka.

LIHI currently operates the city’s other micro-shelter village at East 60th Street and McKinley Avenue that opened in July after the first site, near People’s Park, closed. That site operated from December 2019 through July, with 65 clients and 15 people exiting to housing.

Tacoma plans to have the new micro-shelter site open with people moved in by mid-December.