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Tiny houses could take pressure off Seattle's homeless crisis

The director of Seattle's Low Income Housing Institute wants to expand the city's tiny houses program to help transition the homeless into permanent housing. (KOMO Photo)

SEATTLE -- A plan to allow tents in public parks is earning sharp reactions around the city but now a different idea is being floated.

The executive director of a nonprofit said it can build "tiny house villages" in three new locations, but she needs the city's help to get started.

Sharon Lee with the Low Income Housing Institute said there are good reasons to expand the tiny house program. Three sites are currently operating around Seattle. Residents who live there are kept in regular contact with social workers, and so far the outcomes have been positive.

“We've moved 108 people into permanent housing or long-term transitional housing, and then over 60 people have gotten jobs,” Lee said.

Lee’s push for more tiny houses comes as the city council considers whether to turn public parks and sidewalks into homeless campsites.

“We would like to work with the city and the neighborhoods and open up three tiny house villages,” Lee said, adding that they could be located in North Seattle, West Seattle and the Central District.

Lee doesn't oppose allowing tents in parks, but believes that with the council's help, her tiny house proposal would be easier to manage and leave residents better off.

Lee said if everything comes together, tiny houses could shelter close to 200 people before winter sets in.

The city council will take up the tents in parks proposal on Friday.

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