Housing
5:14 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Game Of Homes: 11 People, Two Tiny Apartments

The Pokhrel family moved to the U.S. from Bhutan.
Credit KUOW Photo/Hannah Burn
We interviewed two groups of people for our Game of Homes segment on sharing housing. The Pokhrels, featured in the story below, told us they couldn't imagine living apart. Joe Hiller, a resident of the Sherwood cooperative house in the University District, said he enjoys communal living.

This week, we have been airing Game of Homes, a series about finding affordable housing in Seattle. For some, like the Pokhrel family, it’s about bunking together. Eleven family members share two apartments on Rainier Avenue in South Seattle.

When KUOW’s Steve Scher and Hannah Burn visited, Tikra Pokhrel pointed to the floor.

“We are sleeping on the floor here,” he said. “Me, my wife, my little daughter.”

They sleep on a blanket pillow.

“There is no other choice, we have to stay together as a whole family,” he said.

The Pokhrels pay $1,600 for two apartments on Rainier Avenue.
Credit KUOW Photo/Hannah Burn

The Pokhrels are originally from Bhutan. But two decades ago, the government started expelling its ethnic Nepali citizens. One hundred thousand people languished in camps. The Pokhrels lived in the camps for 19 years before coming to the U.S. in 2010. Their living situation now is better than it was then.

“One hut, not a room,” Tikra Pokhrel said. “This wasn’t an apartment. This was built plastic and bamboo fencing.”

For the Pokhrels, it’s about saving money, but it’s also about culture.

“In my culture we have to live together. In American culture, if a person is old, they gonna send them to go to nursing home,” said Gayatii Pokhrel, a student at Seattle Central College. He said their holy book says to live like this.

“We are so happy to live together,” he said. “We love each other. We don’t want to live separately from our family.”

Tikra Pokhrel was a plumber in Bhutan. He now earns about $1,500 a month as a houseman at Embassy Suites in South Seattle. His parents receive Social Security payments, and his wife works part-time as a caregiver. All three children are in college.

They’re not unhappy with their situation, but it’s sometimes tricky sharing a small space -- and one bathroom -- with so many people. They pay $1,600 for both apartments.

They don’t feel that safe going out at night, as their corner has been the site of several shootings

“There is no choice to move from here,” Gayatii Pokhrel said. There’s simply no money left after all the bills are paid.

“My life is better than the refugee camp,” he said. “I don’t have more money. If I read hard, I’ll go to college. I’ll have a better life. I’m not expecting a good life right now. After I become a nurse, I may buy a house. Right now, everything is OK.

“In the future, I am happy.”

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