The end is in sight for the 30 or so residents of Camp Quixote, a homeless tent city that has moved every few months to a new church-sponsored site since 2007.
There is now just one more move, to Quixote Village, the permanent site of 30 one-room cottages for the homeless and a community building, which is rising on Thurston County property at 3350 Mottman Road SW.
Crews have put up the walls and roof on the village’s 2,600-square-foot community building, and foundations are going in for the cottages. Residents plan to move into their single-occupancy, one-room cottages in time for Christmas, said Tim Ransom, president of Panza, the nonprofit organization that supports the camp.
Kevin Johnson, one of the camp’s longtime residents, can’t wait.
“I’ve been here since day one, six years ago,” he said. “It was always a pipe dream (to have a permanent site). In less than three months, it’s a reality now.”
Ransom said 90 percent of the surface work for the village is done, and future plans include a workshop on site. But first things first: Get a roof over people’s heads, Ransom said.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Get everybody out of the rain, out of the tents.”
The cottages are hardly the lap of luxury: single occupancy, about 154 square feet, with a patio on each, Ransom said. There will be two rows of 15 cottages, each row facing the other.
The community building will house meeting rooms, showers, toilets, a kitchen and laundry space, Ransom said.
Having Quixote Village means getting a shower every day, said Scott Benz, a resident of the camp and camp president.
Construction costs are estimated at $1.68 million. Funding came from a combination of government grants and private donations. Major donors include the state ($1.55 million), federal Housing and Urban Development dollars distributed by the county ($604,002), and county-distributed Home Consortium dollars ($170,000). The Nisqually Indian Tribe also gave $40,000, and the Chehalis Tribe gave $7,000.
Enough money is in hand for construction, but the camp will still be reaching out to others for operating costs, estimated at $240,000 per year, Ransom said.
The camp will lease the county land for $1 per year; it’s a 40-year commitment.
Camp Quixote started in February 2007 on a city-owned parking lot at State Avenue and Columbia Street as a protest of the city’s Pedestrian Interference Ordinance. The rule made it a misdemeanor to sit, lie down, sell things or ask for money within 6 feet of the edge of a downtown building during certain hours, with limited exceptions. (Last year, the council made the whole sidewalk off-limits for sitting and lying between 7 a.m. and midnight.)
City leaders told campers to leave, and police evicted them eight days later. The Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation offered sanctuary for the campers on a site it owns at 2409 Division St. NW. That grew into a group of hosting churches, including The United Churches, St. John’s Episcopal Church, First United Methodist Church of Olympia, Westminster Presbyterian Church in Olympia, Lacey Community Church and First Christian Church in Olympia.
Each church would take a turn hosting the camp, three months at first, then for six-month periods when government regulations changed. Churches provided volunteers, food and supplies. But campers grew weary of tearing down and setting up camp every few months.
The camp is now at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1925 Boulevard Road, the last location before settling permanently at the Quixote Village site. Ransom said there is no plan to continue the tent city after the village opens.
The camp is self-governed, as the village will be. All residents get to vote and determine their own futures. They can vote to decide who is admitted to the camp, or who must leave. Their rules ban violence, drugs or alcohol from the camp. Residents can be men or women, but must be 18 or older. And everybody must pitch in to keep up the camp.
“It’s not a flophouse,” Johnson said.
For Johnson, a recovering heroin addict who said he spent many years on the streets, finding Camp Quixote was a way to become clean. And now it means getting a proper home with four walls.
“Like I say, this whole situation has been a godsend for me,” he said.Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@ theolympian.com @MattBatcheldor