Boeing Bluebills volunteer Dan Nieuwsma, right, talks with Bayside Housing Services case manager Mike Schleckser about building ramps to the shower units at Peter’s Place. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Boeing Bluebills volunteer Dan Nieuwsma, right, talks with Bayside Housing Services case manager Mike Schleckser about building ramps to the shower units at Peter’s Place. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Self-governance hallmark of Peter’s Place

People without homes find refuge

PORT HADLOCK — We’d like our place quiet 24-seven. No alcohol on the premises. And we prefer separate women’s and men’s bathrooms and showers, rather than unisex.

Such were the self-governance decisions at Peter’s Place, the village that took shape at the beginning of 2021. Built on land provided by the neighboring Community United Methodist Church and by the Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP), this is a tiny community of warm, dry shelters painted in hopeful colors.

Boeing Bluebills volunteer Dan Nieuwsma, right, talks with Bayside Housing Services case manager Mike Schleckser about building ramps to the shower units at Peter’s Place. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Boeing Bluebills volunteer Dan Nieuwsma, right, talks with Bayside Housing Services case manager Mike Schleckser about building ramps to the shower units at Peter’s Place. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Completed at Christmas time, the village is named after Peter Bonyun of Port Townsend, who got the whole project started last fall, working with fellow volunteers to build the 8- by 12-foot shelters in a field beside the Evangelical Bible Church on San Juan Avenue in Port Townsend. Donations small and large — of money, time and carpentry — made the idea real.

Mike Schleckser, case manager at the nonprofit Bayside Housing Services, interviews potential residents for Peter’s Place’s 12 units. He’s been admiring the self-governance proceedings since people started moving in two months ago — and hoping to find more.

Four women and five men, age 54 to 76, live in the single-occupancy shelters as of last week; each person has one vote in the weekly meetings that govern life in the neighborhood.

In the beginning, back in January, quiet hours were set at 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., but the residents expanded that along with designating the restrooms for each gender.

“I love being here. I paid three months’ rent today,” said a woman who moved into Peter’s Place in mid-January. She asked for anonymity, then showed a visitor the garden she’d created beside her sun-yellow house.

“This is my therapy garden,” she said. “The name of it is ‘A Garden for Unity, Peace, Faith and Hope.’”

Nights have been warm and quiet, she said, and when a blanket of snow clothed the village in February, there was no problem; “it was really pretty here.”

Beads and stones adorn a newly built therapy garden created by a resident at Peter’s Place, the transitional housing village in Port Hadlock. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Beads and stones adorn a newly built therapy garden created by a resident at Peter’s Place, the transitional housing village in Port Hadlock. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Yet Schleckser finds some would-be residents are reluctant. The bathroom-shower units are outside, as is the kitchen trailer, so seniors — for whom Peter’s Place is set aside — tell him it’s not practical for them.

Last week the village did see an improvement on that front: the Boeing Bluebills volunteer group built two ramps, one for each of the bathrooms. This makes life easier for the seniors with mobility issues, Schleckser said, adding he’ll keep seeking out homeless elders at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds and at “the homeless hangout spots” in and around Port Townsend.

He carries with him applications for Bayside’s transitional housing adjacent to the Old Alcohol Plant Inn in Port Hadlock, and encourages people to visit Baysidehousing.org or phone him at 360-881-7140 for such paperwork.

At Peter’s Place, “it’s very rewarding when somebody moves in and their situation improves,” he said.

But “not everyone’s ready,” and Schleckser is the one who has to move people out for code of conduct violations: overnight guests, public inebriation, any behavior that adversely affects other residents.

At the same time, he’s hopeful about the near future.

“New builds are moving forward,” and the volunteers who worked on Peter’s Place are looking for locations, he said.

“I’d like to see at least 50 units,” including a village for younger adults.

Schleckser called on local residents, wherever and however they live, to examine their own stereotypes about homeless people.

Mike Schleckser, Bayside Housing Services case manager, welcomes residents to Peter’s Place, the transitional housing village in Port Hadlock. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Mike Schleckser, Bayside Housing Services case manager, welcomes residents to Peter’s Place, the transitional housing village in Port Hadlock. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

“These are people in our community. They are our neighbors,” he said.

“And to our faith-based organizations, I would say: Please put in a tiny house village. Put in 12 [units]. If you can’t do 12, do six. If you can’t do six, do three. If not three, then one. One tiny house will make a huge difference.”

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

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