Along the Mother Road
Rene Reynoso, left, and Cheyenne Reynoso, right, embrace on the bunk bed in their tiny home on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, at the Licton Springs Tiny House Village on Aurora Avenue North in Seattle. 
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Rene Reynoso, left, and Cheyenne Reynoso, right, embrace on the bunk bed in their tiny home on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, at the Licton Springs Tiny House Village on Aurora Avenue North in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

This tiny house village is a lifeline for some, a nuisance to others

The Licton Springs Tiny House Village on Aurora Avenue North in Seattle differs from the other city-authorized homeless encampments.

Of the six sanctioned camps, it's the only low-barrier site, meaning residents don't have to be sober to live in one of the tiny homes — spaces 8 feet by 12 feet with windows, heat, electricity and a locking door.

Residents from the neighborhood, and around Seattle, are referred there by the city's Navigation Team.

Proponents of the camp say it's an important resource because it serves people who may not be eligible for other shelters.

"Most of our clients are using, active addicts, long-term homeless that are difficult to serve," said Charlie Johnson, one of the operators of the camp.

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Residents like Rene and Cheyenne Reynoso say the village has done a lot for them. They were living in a tent before they moved there.

"It's changed our life completely. I mean, nothing is the same, everything is better," Cheyenne Reynoso said.

The Reynosos were sober for a time but they relapsed when they became homeless.

Rene is now sober again and Cheyenne is on maintenance, they said. They’re hoping the next step will be to get an apartment of their own.

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The tiny houses are supposed to be a stop on the way to something better, like treatment or housing.

But the case workers in the camp said it's tough to get residents into permanent housing, partly because there are few available affordable apartments and partly because the residents have issues to deal with first.

Roughly 60 men and women live in the camp at any time, many of them with pets.

Resident Mike Tarp was without a home for three years before moving into the village with his cat, Savage.

"It's a lot better than where we came from," Tarp said. "Don't have to worry about cops saying you have to move, and you get more of a feeling of home here."

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At least 27 people have left the program so far. Of those who have left the camp, 13 have been placed in permanent housing.

The city has not yet said how this stacks up next to other authorized encampments in Seattle. In 2017, an evaluation of the city’s first sanctioned camps was released. An evaluation of the performance at the Licton Springs site is expected in a couple of months.

Like many of the other city-permitted encampments, there was pushback when the village first moved in.

Camp residents and operators say they work hard to be good neighbors and address any issues in the community.

However, as the city considers whether to allow the village to remain for another year, some neighbors say they’ve seen a huge rise in crime and trash since the camp moved in.

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The city is taking public comment on this issue until April 5.