Tiny homes for the homeless looking to set up space in your backyard

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SEATTLE – Will you say yes to tiny homes for the homeless in your backyard? King County officials and homeless advocacy groups hope you will.

Officials unveiled new details Friday on a program called The Block Project that could house 100 homeless people each year into small, pre-fabricated homes inside Seattle and King County.

Officials say the tiny homes are already code compliant and only need to find space in someone’s back yard.

The first tiny home is already housing a previously homeless person in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood.

“I said, I want one in my backyard,” said homeowner Kim Sherman. “As soon as we heard about it, it was just such an easy decision.”

Sherman and her partner, Dan Tenenbaum, are the first homeowners in the project. Back in 2017 their property began hosting a 125-square-foot tiny house where a once homeless man now has some sense of stability.

“Getting to know Bobby has just been a really beautiful experience for us,” said Sherman. “We love him and we feel like we’re getting so much out of that relationship.”

The Block Project has engineered ready-to-build tiny homes, and organizers hope to place 500 in Seattle and King County in the next five years.

King County announced partnerships with organizations to build, store and furnish the structures inside a warehouse on Harbor Island.

One-hundred families have already applied to host a tiny home, according to officials. The tiny homes are off-the-grid, using solar panels for power, rainwater to collect drinking water and a composting toilet that takes care of waste.

“The biggest hurdle is really making sure your lot, your property, complies with existing codes, which is 4,000 square feet minimum,” said Jenn LaFreniere.

“We are on a path to allow us to finally get ahead of this crisis,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.

Officials say both homeowners and clients go through a thorough vetting process and both parties have to agree before a client moves in.

For Seattle’s first Block Project, the property owners say they feel like they’re making a difference one person at a time.

“In some ways he’s just like another neighbor,” said Sherman. “We see him probably three or four times a week in passing.”

Block Project organizers says they do extensive outreach to neighbors where a tiny home could be installed, but insist that won’t happen until everyone on the block agrees to the idea.

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