If one were to have attended the Ballard community meeting a few weeks ago, where residents complained loud and long about the mayor’s decision to site a new homeless encampment on Market Street, they might be left with the impression that Ballardites are universally hostile toward the idea of homeless encampments.
But they would be wrong. One major Ballard organization, Sustainable Ballard, is vocally in support of the encampments.
On Aug. 31, Sustainable Ballard extended a welcome to the encampments, saying, “encampments help mitigate harm, encourage dignity, and alleviate some of the burden of homeless life. In addition, these facilities offer an opportunity to those of us who are fortunate enough to create a more sustainable, compassionate community.”
Courtney Rosenstein, a Sustainable Ballard board member and marketing manager with deep green architecture firm Mithun, stressed that the encampments were very much in line with the organization’s mission of creating a more sustainable society. “We look at sustainability in a holistic way. Sustainability includes social sustainability and a society that is inequal is not sustainable,” she said, adding, “it’s not just about green building design.”
The organization is already involved in efforts to help the homeless, including organizing a knitting drive to provide people sleeping outside with warm clothes, cooking free meals at Nyer Urness House and gleaning leftover produce from the farmers market to donate to the homeless.
In addition to expressing their support, Sustainable Ballard is also hoping to improve the livability of the new encampment by raising funds to build tiny houses.
These houses, lauded as a vast improvement over tents, are built through a program managed by the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI). They cost about $2,350 each to construct and transport to Ballard and feature a locking door, insulation, a light, a ventilation fan and access to a plumbed community toilet. The toilet is especially important, as it eliminates the need for wasteful and costly port-a-potties.
LIHI, which oversees case management at the new Ballard site, has already finalized plans for its first tiny house community at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in the Central District.
The community will feature 22 tiny houses with a central bathroom. lihi already planned to build six tiny houses at the Ballard site, and Sustainable Ballard hopes that its fundraising efforts will increase that number.
As of press time, the organization had raised enough money for two houses and featured a demo house at its annual “Sustainable Ballard Festival” to raise awareness about the project. Rosenstein said that they hope to fund at least three and that “in the unlikely event that Ballard is not an encampment site, we’ll use the money we raise to build tiny houses for the nearest project.”