PORT HADLOCK — When Wayne Chimenti goes in to work with his crew, two big problems are on his mind. A former tall-ship captain, he now leads the Community Boat Project, which is confronting those problems in a small yet foundational way.
First: How to train young people in the construction trades. Next problem: How to give people in need a soft place to land.
“Everybody deserves something that is beautiful, cozy and comfortable,” Chimenti said on a recent Friday morning.
He stood beside Whispering Willow, a nearly finished cabin parked outside the Old Alcohol Plant Inn.
The hotel and restaurant share the property with the nonprofit Bayside Housing & Services, provider of lodging and support to families, singles and couples who have lost their housing. The Community Boat Project, located at the nearby Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding, is a partner to Bayside.
As two crew members — muralist Danielle Fodor and project manager Gillian Kenagy — painted the front porch trim, Chimenti spoke of his hopes for Jefferson County’s future.
He wants the county to have decent housing — for people who find jobs here, who are losing their rentals due to one financial disaster or another, and who work on local farms.
Whispering Willow is slated to be part of Pat’s Place, a village proposed for Bayside’s property at 10th and Rosecrans streets in Port Townsend. The community would provide transitional housing for up to 12 people, each screened by Bayside before moving in.
Bayside submitted its permit application for Pat’s Place to the city of Port Townsend at the end of June. During the ensuing public comment period, some 200 comments came in, Development Services Director Lance Bailey said Wednesday.
“There were more opposed than in support,” he said, adding neighborhood residents distributed fliers objecting to the project.
That may have been due in part to the city code’s term in the application: tent encampment. The term, Bailey said, does not fit Bayside’s village plan.
The public comment period ended Aug. 17, and the city’s Development Services Department has asked Bayside to respond to the concerns raised.
Bailey expects his department to issue a decision on the permit by the end of this month; after that will come a 14-day appeal period.
“This does not go to a public hearing,” he said.
Pat’s Place, named after the father of the property owner who sold the land to Bayside — rather than putting it on the open market — is similar to Peter’s Place in Port Hadlock.
That village, established last January, also provides transitional housing: cabins with comfortable beds, heaters and lockable doors plus a separate kitchen unit and shower-toilet facility.
Volunteer builders constructed the cabins last year; this past spring and summer, they built another set for Pat’s Place.
There has been debate over what to call these 8-by-12-foot structures. Some say they’re not “tiny houses,” since they don’t have their own plumbing or cooking equipment. “Unit” seems wrong for something colorfully painted and different from its neighbors.
When Bayside director Gary Keister was asked what he calls Whispering Willow, his answer was uncomplicated.
“It’s a tiny home,” he said.
As in warm and inviting: Fodor has painted an image of a bird in flight above the bed and added stars to the ceiling, while other crew members installed wooden furniture. A photo of Sherlock, the Community Boat Project’s dog, rests on a shelf for now.
This home is part of a vision beyond Peter’s and Pat’s places, Chimenti added. The Community Boat Project, which he has shaped into a hands-on job training program, has plans for more tiny homes in East Jefferson County.
“Next, we want to build self-contained, affordable housing for farmworkers, with Bayside as a partner,” Chimenti said.
“We’re looking at land in the Chimacum valley,” and hoping to secure it in the coming weeks while building a prototype home.
“We also want to put in a bigger community shop, where people could come in and build their own,” he said.
The housing shortage in this county — and in the United States — is an epidemic we saw coming, Keister added.
Not enough homes are being built across the country, he said, and too many people are being brought low by disasters, natural and personal.
“I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had somebody in their lives who had a tragedy,” such the death of a spouse who was the family breadwinner, Keister said.
Elsewhere in the nation, people are coping with hurricanes and wildfires — events over which they have no control.
The housing crisis is different, he said.
“This is something we can get ahead of, something we can solve. We’ve got to look forward and find solutions.”