PORT TOWNSEND — Under a bright sun Saturday afternoon, a flock of masked people — the mayor and city manager, volunteer builders, contributors of furnishings, cookies and cash — stood together to celebrate the completion of Port Townsend’s first tiny-home village: Pat’s Place.
The 11 wooden shelters and their community kitchen are on 10th Street near Hancock Street, where a fence shields the village. With Bayside Housing & Services as the umbrella agency, single people and couples who’ve been homeless will start moving in by the end of the month — as soon as the city signs off on things like the required bicycle rack, said Mike Schleckser, Bayside case manager.
“It’s our intention to be excellent neighbors. It’s our experience with Peter’s Place that we are very good neighbors,” he added, referring to Bayside’s tiny home village in Port Hadlock. It opened just over one year ago as a small neighborhood of colorfully painted, volunteer-built shelters.
It’s been a bumpy road to arrive in Port Townsend, Bayside director Gary Keister said, speaking to the crowd.
“Despite inclement weather, COVID, and the exceedingly expensive increases in the cost of materials and supplies, we’re here,” he said.
Because of “the huge effort and work by the Community Build Project,” he added, “these beautiful homes are ready for occupancy by those in our community who are most vulnerable and in need of housing.”
The Community Build Project, a team of women and men from Jefferson and Clallam counties and from Seattle, began constructing tiny homes in 2020 in the field beside the Evangelical Bible Church on San Juan Avenue in Port Townsend. Port Hadlock’s Community Boat Project also built two of the shelters. They all worked for months without knowing where the shelters would ultimately go.
The Community United Methodist Church in Port Hadlock agreed to provide space for Peter’s Place, which opened to occupants at the beginning of 2021.
Then Bayside connected with Randall Johnson of Port Angeles, who has leased the Pat’s Place land to the agency with an option to buy. Johnson asked that the village be named after his father.
Bayside went to the city of Port Townsend to obtain the permits last summer — and the struggle began.
“There are neighbors who have been very supportive of this project,” City Manager John Mauro reminded the audience on Saturday.
“Let’s be honest,” he added, “there are people who have not been so supportive,” and many of them wrote letters and made phone calls to the city planning department.
Mauro thanked the city workers who took those calls and letters, including Suzanne Wassmer, the Development Services staff member who administrated the permit application.
Wassmer was on the front line throughout the application process, “which did turn ugly,” Mauro said.
After the complaints, protests and messages of support were heard, Pat’s Place met the criteria for its permit, then-Development Services Director Lance Bailey said. The permit was approved in August.
Then came more home-building, moving of the tiny shelters to 10th Street, paving of paths among them, construction of ramps to each one and furnishing of the homes, bathrooms, showers and kitchen-dining room. That common space is now decorated with messages of welcome from the students at Swan School.
Randy Welle, the professional builder who gave many volunteer hours to both Peter’s Place and Pat’s Place, marveled on Saturday at the dedication of his fellow workers and donors. All had built something together, he said, that can make all the difference.
“The problem of homelessness is not the lack of a home. The problem of homelessness is the lack of community,” Welle said, adding that community is the essence of Pat’s Place.
One of the last speakers was Barb Oliver of Sound Foundations Northwest, a Seattle-based advocacy organization. Shelters such as these save people’s lives, she said.
And instead of NIMBY, “not in my backyard,” villages such as Pat’s Place can inspire a new attitude and acronym, she said: RIMBY, as in “right in my backyard.”
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]