By now, it has been established that taking up residence in a home of minimal square footage can be a fulfilling exercise in fostering a community, staving off mortgage payments, letting go off non-essential possessions, and perturbing your parents. Micro-dwellings can also instill, as I’ve touched down on previously with a look at two separate initiatives in Austin, Texas, and Madison, Wis., a sense of dignity and purpose in those whom independent housing, no matter the size, is elusive.

Writing for the New York Times, Michael Tortorello recently explored the tiny houses-for-the-homeless movement by zeroing in on Quixote Village, a former “floating tent city” that has morphed into a 2.1-acre community composed of 30 pint-sized cottages each housing a single, adult resident. Located in a vacant Olympia, Wash. industrial park, the village's assemblage of super-petite rental units provide shelter and a sense of permanence to the destitute, the down-and-out, the chronically homeless.

The village, which cost a little over $3 million to complete, became a reality this past Christmas Eve.

Funded by a nonprofit organization named Panza and self-governed by an executive committee of residents (all former members of the aforementioned tent encampment) who were also instrumental in the creation of the community from the ground up, the Times believes that Quixote Village could serve “template for homeless housing projects across the country.”

Explains Ginger Segel of nonprofit developer Community Frameworks: “Regular affordable housing is a luxury these folks cannot afford. This, to my knowledge, is the first example of using micro-housing as subsidized housing for very poor people. It’s such an obvious thing. People are living in tents. They’re living in cars. They’re living in the woods.”

Each ringing in at 144-square-feet and costing about $19,000 a piece to build, Quixote Village’s collection of porch-adorned tiny homes are arranged in a horseshoe shape (per the request of future residents as to “minimize cliques”) around a community center with a shared kitchen, laundry, showers, and more. There’s also a community vegetable garden for resident use. Panza pays Thurston County — a major financial backer of the village along with the Washington State Department of Commerce’s Housing Trust Fund, the City of Olympia, and both community and individual donors — $1 annually to use the land as part of a 41-year lease agreement.

As for the residents' rent, it isn't always exactly gratis. Those living in Quixote Village are expected to pay roughly 30 percent of their income toward rent. However, roughly half of the residents living in the village reported an income of zero. For those residents with some sort of annual income, the figure is a little over $3,000 each including social security benefits, wages, and pensions. And for now, every one of the petite dwellings are occupied as all of the residents of Camp Quixote made the transition to the village. A wait-list and formal application process, however, is being developed.

Panza, official owner and landlord of the community, was established in 2008 by the members of several local churches and faith-based organizations to help support the residents of the Quixote community in its pre-village form (for six years, the camp moved from church parking lot to church parking lot every three-to six months Village).

Panza’s Board of Directors is decidedly diverse: Timothy Ransom, a retired environmental scientist, currently serves as president of the nonprofit. Bob Wolpert, a LEED-accredited architect at KMB Design (and, coincidentally, a childhood neighbor of this mine), is vice president. And then there's former president Jill Severn, who, prior to her involvement with Panza worked as a journalist and gubernatorial speechwriter among other things. Instrumental in the foundation of Quixote Village, the Times points out that residents view Severn as a “second mother and a saint.”

Despite some having minor qualms with the village (massive puddles, an isolated location, lack of cable TV, etc.), many residents have found their niche and a sense of purpose at their new home. Jon Waddey, who describes Quixote Village “as not an end, but a means,” enjoys preparing meals for his fellow residents in the community kitchen: “I think cooking is one of the most fundamental things you can do. To feed people and see how happy it makes them.”

Waddey says of his cottage: “I absolutely love it. I have my little writing desk, my reading desk, a lovely view of the trees. In a way, that’s what I’ve always wanted.”

Lots more on this remarkable, potentially game-changing community at the Times and the Quixote Village website.

Via [New York Times]

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