Shelters (Nickelsville and elsewhere)

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    Does anyone know if this type of temporary shelter solution has been suggested to the City for Nickelsville (or other crisis housing)? Is anyone involved in any groups who could pursue a shipping container crisis housing solution?



    I am surprised that this has not caught more attention here on the blog.

    I have always thought that the “small houses” ideas were great too.

    Your idea of using shipping containers is right on target. Changing people’s perception of shipping containers would be the key.

    I think how we fail the homeless and the poor is we don’t move beyond crisis intervention. We are so busy trying to keep them alive, that we don’t have a consolidated plan to move them towards success. Housing like your idea is a great start. A warm mind and body is better able to make the transition of moving back into mainstream society. Those shipping containers can also be converted to on-site study rooms, monthly clinics, job placement offices…

    We lack vision. Independent living should be the primary goal. Once you have a plan in place, everything you do then becomes the building blocks to the reach the defined objective. The blocks should include crisis management, education, job placement, healthcare and probably most important of all; a timeline.

    Great idea! I really like this!



    It pains me to say that this is not one of the options at Nickelsville.

    The rationalization is that all housing has to be able to be flat packed to be moved..

    but the reality is that even if you come in the door at Nickelsville with a camper or motor home you are not allowed to actually live in it.

    There are so many solutions to our housing crisis and so many rationalizations that prevent them from being used :(



    Common Ground claims to build things with shipping containers. (They are the developer for DECS on Delridge.)




    it will be interesting to see what kinds of projects they finally break ground on…

    the current model for mixed use spaces that replace inexpensive housing with fewer subsidized housing units than they started with are not the answer.



    To my knowledge, Common Ground has just researched this building type, not actually built somethig with them. It would be awesome to see a “demonstration project” utilizing cotainers, so we could at least see the pros and cons in an urban area. There were containers used for a migrant farm worker population in Mattawa WA, but as you can imagine, the steel in a hot hot summer climate was not great.

    People should know that there is a big debate in Seattle about temporary versus permanent housing for the homeless. There is a comprehensive plan, the Ten year plan to end homelessness, and it calls for the building of more “permanent” not temporary (shelters) housing. This happens by using federal and local funds to build buildings, and these funds come with significant regulations, some of which stifle creativity like the use of shipping containers. For example, the main driver of funding is called the low income housing tax credit, and this comes with an investor (usually private bank or corporation) that might not be so into a new building type like containers.

    Is this a reason not to do it? No. That is why it would be great for the City or County to fund a demonstration project on this topic to at least explore it once to see if it is replicable.



    Talaki, I don’t think that folks like you and I are failing the poor, and I don’t think that we lack vision either. We certainly don’t lack compassion.

    What we DO lack, at this particular point in time, is leadership. As proof of this, I cite the failure of the Mayor and City Council to come forward with a good plan since the Sunny Jim site proposal fell through more than two years ago.

    Several people on this blog and elsewhere have been trying to put pressure on our city officials to move forward – since we can’t really do anything without them – but their response has been glacial. Interestingly, they do seem to be able to move forward with other costly and contentious issues, like a new basketball stadium.

    Meanwhile, the situation at Nickelsville/McGinnville continues to deteriorate.

    I hope people here will follow through and keep putting pressure on our elected officials to DO SOMETHING about this problem. That’s the way forward.



    kgdlg: you’re right: shipping containers are not comfortable in weather extremes. we use them from time to time in construction to store stuff. they sweat in damp weather, causing a lot of moisture inside. they’re not insulated. they are extremely hot in the summer.

    not to say it’s not doable. they can be insulated and have vents cut into them. there are insulated and refrigerated units that can be modified for 110-volt power and actually have water hookups.

    but it’s an expense for materials and labor, and modifying shipping containers requires expensive materials and things like cutting torches and people qualified to use them.

    i’ve had the same thoughts, though. the port and its many contractors are sitting on what seems like hundreds of thousands of those things scattered around the duwamish waterway.

    if there’s sufficient land, the containers could be spaced to provide covered and uncovered outdoor space. they can be arranged to provide a natural security perimeter. they’re strong enough to support things like solar panels or small gardens. they’re modular and stackable. and they’re eminently portable, given a truck and a roll-on trailer.

    ideas, ideas everywhere. but is anyone with the power to make things happen listening?




    the problem with the ten year plan as i see it is that too many affordable housing units have been leveled to provide mixed use spaces that provide far fewer affordable housing units than existed before the plan was enacted…

    while mixed use might be the best long range solution for affordable housing.. the short range results are that the need is increasing as housing units are decreasing.

    there is a huge need in Clark county for 24 hour shelters/living spaces that would allow the temporarily homeless to work the odd schedules that patching together temporary and part time jobs create … and to save enough to move on to permanent housing.

    not to mention housing for the disabled who have incomes that could provide housing but still have no place to live.

    As far as i can tell.. right now our city hall including the council is playing pass the buck.. someday your boat will come in politics with the issue of homelessness…

    and i don’t know how to make that change.

    a pilot program here or there is not going to do it.



    I know! Call it Nickelsville Stadium.

    Has a certain jingle to it, no?



    JoB, not sure if you follow housing for homeless in Seattle but we are the only city in this country that has a low income housing levy, which primarily funds homeless housing and housing below 30 percent of area median income. This in my mind does not constitute “passing the buck”. And while I think that I understand what you are saying about “mixed use” housing, I don’t think this plays out very often in practice (I.e. New buildings replacing old affordable stock) whether you agree with the DESC building or not, it replaced a lower density lot on del ridge, not an existing multifamily building. And most projects in recent history are like this. They produce way more units for homeless than previously existed (none in that case). The real problem for those who are homeless and on disability is the lack of section 8 vouchers and public housing, budgets that the government have been consistently cutting since Reagan. This is why housing authorities are not building new public housing stock – there is no funding for it. So in my mind, the real problem is not with our city but our federal government.

    Idea: convert the tax credit for mortgages on second homes to more vouchers for the elderly, disabled and poor families. They need housing more than someone’s rich uncle needs a tax break on his house in palm springs.



    Let me clarify that my comments above all pertain to permanent housing for the homeless. I think the issue of nickelsville gets at the temporary vs. permanant housing issue in the ten year plan.

    If we acknowledge that a certain percentage of housing should always be temporary (shelters) than I think we could get to finding a perm location for nickelsville that could entail something creative like shipping containers, etc. But it would possibly take as much investment as a reguar building, and I believe that is what politicians and tax pagers struggle with.




    it’s my understanding that affordable housing has been replaced in the downtown core with multi-use projects that lowered the amount of affordable housing…

    and that that housing has not been replaced.

    in turn the lack of affordable housing puts a real strain on the need for subsidized housing which still has a long wait list.. even for the high health risk disabled…

    which puts a real strain on temporary housing…

    in this case.. s..t does definitely runs downhill



    JoB what do you mean when you say “multi use”? It is not true that affordable housing is being replaced by “other” affordable housing that is “less affordable”. A good example is catholic housing services rose street shelter. This had limited bed space (less than 50 beds) in substandard space, and was replaced by an 80 unit project of half shelter beds and half permanent units for people to graduate into. That is the kind of unique reuse of space that benefits the homeless community and creates more space inside for people. I don’t know of one Plymouth project or DESC project downtown that has decreased the number of units or people served by building a new mixed use (commercial on first floor housing above) building. Most of these projects are built on empty lots or replace single story structures or vacant historic buildings.

    Now, if you want to talk about new condo buildings taking out old de facto affordable housing, that is an entirely different issue and one that is why our city is so overall unaffordable. What we need to impact that is inclusionary zoning, but that would not create shelter or homelss units.



    Here is a link with all the exact numbers at Bhakita.




    i wasn’t thinking of just shelter, homeless units or even just subsidized housing…



    Well then I think we agree, the rapid mixed use development of Seattle is certainly making things more unaffordable here. But this is a byproduct of the local economy, not just land use policies. All those people making tons of money working for amazon and google have to live somewhere :)



    this link is to the 2011 City of Seattle report on homeless shelters…

    the report is pretty detailed..

    including the ages of those served and the percentage of those in each age group that were disabled… a real eye opener for some…

    however the real stunner was the cost per bed…

    and the limited number of beds.



    I will look at the report, thanks for providing. I think the cost per bed is partly why the ten year plan wanted to move everything to permanent solutions but this overlooks some important realities a) not enough funding to provide a perm bed for all, even with our housing levy and b) some people are not ready for perm housing and first need a shelter bed to get off the street.


    Betty T

    Too many assume that all homeless want to have a real roof over their heads , for personal reasons, some prefer Nickelsvile or similar tent cities.

    I know JoB knows this from Nickelsville. Does that mean they’re just kicked out in the street with absolutely no shelter like a stray dog because they’re different? Shelters mean husbands & wives and families and their fathers are separated. That’s definitely not good under poor circumstances. Families being split up. The low-income for housing for seniors I live in has 2-3 year wait list. Our housekeeper says where she lives is 5 years. Yes, I know the funding was cut as I advocated for the homeles at one point and went to Olympia. Housing property in our neighborhood has been sold to private contractors, no more low-income homes for families here even if money were to appear. I’m just thankful that I am where I am.




    i think it means we need to change what we think of as shelters…

    we need 24 hour shelters where couples and families get to stay together..

    where the street is not the only daytime option ..

    where working a job that conflicts with normal shelter hours is possible…

    perhaps a move towards permanent or semi-permanent co-housing…

    where you have the privacy of a sleeping area but share communal spaces and responsibilities.

    the best of the temporary housing programs are modeled that way and have been very successful in transitioning people back to housing…

    but the time limitations on length of stay are not always compatible with the wait lists on available housing.

    Right now there are few viable options for those who have chosen a tent at Nickelsville in freezing weather to shelter beds.

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