Seattle Is Fast-Tracking Tiny House Communities to Help the Homeless During Coronavirus

published Mar 18, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
three colorful tiny houses in a row
Credit: Segen/Shutterstock

As the novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues to spread across the country, official agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization recommend that Americans remain quarantined in their homes—or practice “social distancing,” by remaining six feet apart from others—to help slow the spread of the virus. The city of Seattle is helping those without stable housing right now stay protected by fast-tracking several communities of tiny houses, offering somewhere safe for them to stay sooner rather than later.

Last month, local Seattle news affiliate KOMO News reported that city leaders approved up to 40 tiny house villages specifically for low-income or homeless populations. And in the wake of the growing coronavirus pandemic, it seems at least one village will be ready for residents in a matter of weeks. Seattle’s King 5 News reports that more than two dozen tiny homes in Seattle’s Central District neighborhood are on their way—something that would normally take a few months, per Sharon Lee, who runs Seattle’s Low Income Housing Institute (LiHi).

“The city has asked us to stand up this village in record time, like two to three weeks. Normally it would take us three to four months,” Lee said, sharing that funding for materials, comes from LiHi and other donors, while volunteers—including local high school students—help build them.

The tiny homes are especially important amid the outbreak, helping those in need avoid shelters with dorm-style sleeping arrangements, and hopefully allowing them space to socially distance from others around them. “What’s very important is when you live in a tiny house you are more than six feet away from other people. This is very different than if you were in a shelter,” said Lee.

In a recent statement, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said, “Our neighbors experiencing homelessness are at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19, and as a city, region, and country, we must act with urgency to address the ongoing impacts of the public health crisis.”

Leo Flor, director of the county’s Department of Community and Human Services, recently told the Seattle Times that “in the homeless population, we could see more than 1,000 people at the peak with a serious health response to the coronavirus…we also heard from local shelters that they are observing an increased number of residents with symptoms consistent with coronavirus. The ability of shelters to quarantine symptomatic people is typically very limited. In most shelters, people sleep in very close shared quarters, in some cases, only six inches apart.”

LiHi hopes that the first residents will be able to move in by the end of March, which will hopefully help protect as many people as possible from getting sick.