Sharon Lee has the creativity of an architect and the practicality of an urban planner, wrapped up with a compassionate soul. And thanks to her vision and tenacity, as founding executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), tiny houses have emerged as a promising temporary solution to Seattle’s growing homelessness crisis.
After working with the City of Seattle to provide space for squatters at a vacant LIHI site, in 2013, Lee emerged as a champion of this cost-effective, transitional method of providing shelter. There are now seven tiny house sites including locations in Ballard, Interbay and Georgetown.
The 8-by-12-foot insulated, heated, lockable domains cost just $2,220 each and can quickly be built from DIY kits. While not a total solution, Lee believes the psychological boost of having a roof over one’s head and access to sanitation facilities can make all the difference in helping people transition out of homelessness. Last year, 157 tiny-house village dwellers moved into permanent housing, and 103 found employment.
Lee says the program has received a fabulous outpouring of support from community and business partners. LIHI recently opened two new sites, set aside for people affected by citywide homeless sweeps. By the end of 2017, she expects to have more than 200 tiny houses in place.
“We have a model that people across the country are trying to follow,” says Lee, who believes this quick, relatively easy solution is urgent. “We have more people dying from homelessness than from homicide. It’s an outrage.”
Read about the rest of 2017's Most Influential Seattleites here.