A tiny home village in the Puyallup Valley welcomed its first four residents the week of May 10 and soon will be home to dozens of Washington’s homeless veterans.
The Orting Veterans Village, built on the grounds of the Washington Soldier’s Home, will house 35 homeless veterans at full capacity. COVID-19 mitigation efforts have caused the move-in process to slow down.
Jaycie Osterberg of Quixote Communities, the group in charge of the project, says they hope to move in about five residents per week.
“With hundreds of homeless veterans in Pierce County alone, we are thrilled to be able to provide permanent supportive housing to some of the homeless men and women who have served our country,” Osterberg said.
A 2019 count of the people experiencing homelessness in Pierce County found that at least 9 percent, or about 134 people, were veterans.
Residents are not required to get a COVID-19 vaccination in order to move in but will get tested for the virus. Osterberg said the nonprofit will work to make sure any resident who wants a COVID-19 vaccine is able to get one.
Quixote Communities is no stranger to the tiny home village concept, with a similar community in Olympia and another in the works in Shelton. Osterberg said most residents stay in a village for about three years, and for most that is the longest they’ve spent in one place. She said the tiny home villages provide residents with permanent housing and a fulfilling sense of community.
Each resident of the veteran’s village gets a 180-square-foot tiny home and access to a 2,500-square-foot community center. The community center houses the village’s kitchen and dining area, recreational area and the staff’s office.
The homes come with a living space and a bathroom with a private shower — an upgrade from Quixote Communities’ existing village in Olympia. Most of the items in the homes, including linens, beds, desks, chairs and Instant Pots were donated to Quixote Communities. Osterberg said support from local businesses has been instrumental in putting the finishing touches on the homes.
The village will provide housing to homeless veterans who live in Pierce County. They must go through a background check and drug-screening process. Potential residents cannot have outstanding warrants or a recent history of violence.
Residents are admitted to the village through a need-based list, meaning higher-risk veterans will be higher on the list.
The $4.7 million to fund the Orting village was provided to Quixote Communities from the Washington State Housing Trust Fund, Pierce County, the Federal Home Loan Bank, the United Way and the Housing Authority of Pierce County.
Although Quixote Communities is leading the project, Osterberg credited the Puget Sound Veterans Hope Center for developing the idea.
“They have a 10-bed sleeping area specifically for homeless veterans but really wanted to create a permanent housing situation for them,” Osterberg said.
Because the Veterans Hope Center is entirely volunteer-run, it handed over the idea to Quixote Communities. But at the grand opening of the village on May 25, the group will present its first annual recognition award to Veterans Hope Center president, Larry Geringer.