Nick Twietmeyer email@example.com
Sometimes it does indeed take a village.
And in the case of the newly unveiled “Peter’s Place” tiny house village in Port …
Sometimes it does indeed take a village.
And in the case of the newly unveiled “Peter’s Place” tiny house village in Port Hadlock, it took a village to make a village.
During a New Year’s Eve ceremony, Gary Keister, the director of Bayside Housing & Services, thanked the numerous organizations and volunteers who donated their time and effort to see the project to its fruition. Behind Keister as he spoke stood a row of tiny houses, each painted in a unique and vibrant color scheme and bearing its own name placard.
“Shelter is the first step to building hope and transforming lives,” Keister said to a crowd of 50 or so masked attendees. “’Housing First’ is a philosophy operating on the premise that people cannot improve their lives until they have a safe place to live.”
“A tiny house offers tremendous benefits over tents or living in cars,” Keister added. “They are weatherproof, safe and most [important] of all, lockable. At Bayside, we’ve seen many of our guests just a few weeks after being sheltered, obtaining their identity papers, applying for employment, moving into their own place and becoming productive citizens.”
Judy Alexander, one of the organizers of the project, called Peter’s Place an example of “emergent phenomenon” after it snowballed into a 12-shelter build from what first began as just a single tiny home project.
“[Emergent phenomenon] is when the sum of the parts of a group creates something much bigger than any of us could conceive of by ourselves,” Alexander said.
“It’s uncertain, unpredictable. You don’t know where you’re going sometimes. But you have the faith that you’re on the path. This project has been that way from the very beginning.”
In contrast to the countless other aspects of life that have been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, Alexander said the project came together swimmingly and without any significant setbacks.
“We’ve had nothing but rush, rush, rush; it’s hardly been time to catch your breath. We just built 12 tiny shelters in three months.”
Many different organizations contributed to the project, and Alexander was careful to note that Carl’s Building Supply and Arrow Lumber both donated a significant amount of the shelters’ constituent materials.
The Port Hadlock Community United Methodist Church offered its grounds to site the community, as well.
Peter’s Place is just one of a few forward steps affordable housing has seen in Jefferson County in recent days.
The Washington State Department of Commerce announced Dec. 23 that it would be awarding $11.3 million to an Olympic Community Action Program (OlyCAP) project to construct 43 low-income housing units in Port Townsend. Jefferson County commissioners also voted unanimously to approve a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax which would benefit affordable housing and supportive services throughout the county as well.
At last week’s ceremony, people noted the progress made on housing was a success that should be shared by the community.
“When we close our hearts to the homeless, we suffer, we separate, we resist, we are scared, we are angry, we are judgmental,” Alexander said. “When we open our hearts to our most vulnerable citizens, our hearts expand, our community responds, people thrive.”
The individuals who will live in the community will be selected by Mike Schleckser, a case worker with Bayside Housing & Services.
“These people are temporarily set back, they’ve had obstacles in their life and circumstances in their lives that have put them down, for some, for a considerable period of time and they just need a break,” Schleckser said. “As a community we need to address the availability of low-cost affordable housing.”
Schleckser said the community will come with a code of conduct expected of all its residents.
The rules, he added, were not dissimilar from would be expected of a hotel guest.
“No wild parties, no weapons, no smoking indoors; the very basic things. The part of it that I am very excited about is the self-governance,” Schleckser said. “Once a week the community is going to meet and talk about the issues that they faced in that week and the directions that they want to go.”
By electing their own officers, Schleckser said, the community will be able to handle issues that arise within the community in a diplomatic manner.
“I feel that is the very basis of putting unity in community,” he said. “We’re giving these people a community that they can be invested in, where they can feel safe, where they can feel secure and improve their lives. And, hopefully, all of them will be moving up and out.”
The namesake of Peter’s Place, Peter Bonyun, said he was humbled to have the village named in his honor. Bonyun, one of the early organizers for the project, is credited with playing an influential role in both constructing the tiny houses as well as overseeing other construction-related activities necessary to help build the community.
“It’s very hard to know what to say,” Bonyun began after it was revealed that the village would be named in his honor. “This isn’t about me, it’s about us, it’s about spirit. This is what community looks like. There isn’t much that we can’t do together.”
“Nobody asked anyone what their background was, what their religion was, what their politics were,” Bonyun added. “None of us cared about any of that as we came together with the unity of purpose,” he said. “We can thrive going forward keeping that unity of purpose in mind.”