Camp Quixote reaches a major milestone

The OlympianDecember 31, 2013 

Resident Linda Austin walks organization board member Jill Severn as she carries some of her belongings to her new cottage at Quixote Village on Mottman Road. The permanent housing complex includes a multi-use clubhouse along with 30, single-occupancy cottages.

FILE PHOTO

The residents of Camp Quixote are no longer vagabonds. They no longer need to move their temporary shelters from church to church every six months in the greater Olympia area.

In the days leading up to Christmas, the 30 members of the self-governed tent community for the homeless traded in their tents for 150-square-foot cottages at the new Camp Quixote village site on Mottman Road in Olympia.

A sense of relief filled the air as the villagers on Christmas Eve shed their nomadic existence for warmer and more secure homes.

It’s been an amazing journey to this point, watching Panza, an Olympia-based nonprofit group, mobilize resources and support for the village. They proved the naysayers and doubting Thomases in the community wrong by raising $3.1 million to make the village dream come true.

The journey started in 2007 with one of the more visible protests by homeless people in downtown Olympia when their encampment in a city parking lot was broken up by police. It was then that the faith community stepped in to offer this clan of homeless people a place to camp, a helping hand.

Every six months they moved from one church to another, always working toward the goal of a permanent village site. They faced legal opposition from property owners and businesses in the Mottman neighborhood, but a Thurston County Superior Court judge eventually ruled in their favor.

Panza leases the 2.17-acre Camp Quixote site from Thurston County for $1 a year. Camp residents who have incomes agree to pay one-third of what they earn in rent money to help defray the costs of running the camp.

There will be challenges ahead, including finding funds to sustain the village. But this past week was a major milestone and a great example of one of the many strategies it takes to deal with homelessness in the community.

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