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Olympia church plans to open tiny home village for homeless people in September

Oregon churches put up huts to help growing homeless population

Congregations around Eugene and Springfield, Oregon, say hosting homeless residents on church property is a win-win for their communities.
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Congregations around Eugene and Springfield, Oregon, say hosting homeless residents on church property is a win-win for their communities.

A church in southeast Olympia wants to house people in tiny homes on its property starting in September.

Westminster Presbyterian Church on Boulevard Road Southeast plans to have eight tiny homes to serve as transitional housing, with residents staying four to eight months. Staff from Low Income Housing Institute, which runs a city-owned tiny home village, would provide case management under a contract with the city of Olympia.

Westminster Presbyterian has not submitted a permit application to the city. Once that happens, there would be a 30-day review period that would include outreach to neighbors.

This would be the first facility to come out of a partnership among local churches. Faith Alliance Initiative for Tiny Houses, or FAITH, formed last fall to create and support tiny home villages on members’ property.

Its work is modeled after a program in Eugene, Oregon, where several churches let homeless people live on their properties in tents, vehicles or temporary shelters.

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The city of Olympia last year committed $100,000 to support tiny homes and shelters hosted by local churches and nonprofits. This would be the first use of that money.

Peter Cook, a FAITH leader, said another church is considering opening a similar tiny home village.

At Westminster Presbyterian, organizers plan to install the tiny homes on a corner of the property set back from Boulevard Road and blocked from neighboring properties by fences. Another structure would house a shared kitchen.

The city would provide port-a-potties and residents would have access to showers inside the church.

Other FAITH members plan to help build the tiny homes and support residents with meals, laundry and regular visits.

“It goes beyond just the homes,” said Nancy Nelson, a Westminster volunteer working with FAITH.

In the past, Westminster helped offer medical services and child care to low-income people and families. It also hosted Camp Quixote, a homeless camp that traveled from church to church before moving to a permanent location in 2013.

Nelson said church leaders met with neighbors each time the camp came to Westminster. She recalled neighbors were anxious at first, but by the fourth time around things had settled down.

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