by Bev Rothenborg, Contributing Writer
As many of our readers are aware, the issue of homelessness in Jefferson County remains an ongoing challenge. Our cover photo this month calls attention to one of the many efforts by social service organizations, churches, and individuals to address this issue. Thanks to the combined efforts of Community United Methodist Church (CUMC), Olympic Community Action Program (OlyCAP), Bayside Housing, Boeing Bluebills, the Port Townsend School of Wooden Boat Building, and others we may have missed, twelve new housing units for low-income residents are now available in Port Hadlock.
CUMC in Port Hadlock has a strong history of providing care for those in need. A favorite phrase of church members is ‘SODS’ – Somebody Ought to Do Something. Church members had the foresight to purchase ten acres of land many years ago and have been using that land effectively. In 2000, the South Seven apartment complex was built on church grounds to provide affordable housing for seniors. It was named Margaret’s Village to honor the late Margaret Matheson, who volunteered countless hours to get the project started. Eight apartments were built and are always 100 percent occupied; a current resident waited seven years to get an apartment.
In the fall of 2020, Scott Rosekrans, the pastor of CUMC, received a call inquiring about the availability of CUMC property for a ‘community build.’ The tiny homes were already under construction, and a location for those homes was needed. Knowing that church members of CUMC were always seeking the best use of their available property, Scott had the caller contact OlyCAP, who leases the property at the church for $1 per year. OlyCAP provided their approval as well.
I first learned about the Tiny Homes project when I noticed that a large tent had been erected next to the church parking lot. Many volunteers were engaged in finishing the final construction of the tiny houses under the tent. The volunteers included young people aged 18-25 who were gaining carpentry skills, while some of the construction was also being completed at the Port Townsend School of Wooden Boat Building.
Among the volunteers was Peter Bonyum, the initial Team Leader. When the name for the new village was chosen, it appropriately became Peter’s Place. Each tiny house has been creatively named. The names – ‘Luna Landing,’ ‘Crimson Tide,’ ‘Sunflower Suite’ among others – have been beautifully carved on wooden plaques and placed near the front doors. The Boeing Bluebills will be building ramps as some of the residents have difficulty stepping up to the front porches.
The twelve Tiny Homes were dedicated on December 31, 2020. These homes are classified as transitional housing – the residents must be actively pursuing permanent housing. Gary Keister, the founder and Executive Director of Bayside Housing, said there are currently 150 names on the waiting list for housing. Bayside coordinates the selection of residents and provides case management. A resident of the tiny village, ‘the Ambassador,’ greets new residents, provides an orientation to procedures at the property, and serves as mediator when necessary. Since Peter’s Place began accepting residents, two people living there have found permanent housing.
Bayside Housing has also provided and parked on the grounds a kitchen RV which is equipped with a gas stove and a microwave for residents’ use. Bayside delivers one hot meal a day to the residents as well. Since the tiny houses do not include bathrooms, a lavatory is on the premises, and overnight security is provided for the site.
CUMC church members provide not only housing assistance, as achieved with Margaret’s Village and Peter’s Place, but also operate a food pantry and clothes closet, which provide food and clothing items to those in need every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until noon. Additionally, the church provides a Christmas luncheon for residents each year.
For more information and wonderful window into the project, please view this 50-minute video from the person who video-documented the Tiny Home project youtu.be/dqLtVtfy3uY. It gives you the story from the inception to the dedication. I think you’ll find it very informative and inspirational, and you can be proud of the part Community United Methodist Church played in this project.
I look forward to meeting the residents and having The Ambassador give me a personal tour.