The city of Aberdeen has its first tiny house – unofficially, and by some standards its more of a wooden tent than a tiny house. I can’t even tell you where it is because city code would argue that it is not a dwelling unit it’s a camper and you can’t officially live in a camper in Aberdeen. I’d rather tell you about who’s not living in it.
When Kimmy wasn’t in an available shelter she was living under a blue tarp in the alley behind the poorhouse last winter. She pointed at a pile of garbage tucked into an alcove alongside the building as she explained, “I’ve been sleeping under there for almost a week. It’s not fun – you know being homeless, I mean look where I’m at. This is where I was. [I was] praying every day for something to happen.”
Emily Reed from the group Revival of Grays Harbor teamed up with a Pacific County builder to get Kimmy under a roof once again. Emily said, “When we first met her she was in our shelter here locally. Shortly after we met her she decided to go into treatment. Totally voluntarily, she was super excited about becoming sober and clean. But when they released her they released her back onto the streets of Aberdeen.”
Within minutes of being back on the streets, Kimmy was approached and had to explain to someone that she was clean and sober. Emily said these huts may be basic but they provide more than just the basics for those in need, “It’s also a hugely important piece to their life; to their foundation. She’s now able to go out and pursue things that she wouldn’t be able to do simply because she has a secure place to leave her belongings.”
The hut was built by Richard Nichols of Huts for Hope in Pacific County. This one is under 70 square feet, has a single door on one end and a window on the other end. The entire unit is built on a small trailer, with an axle and wheels positioned so that it can be moved by hand. Nichols, who goes by Pugs Addams, has been building these for anyone who needs them since 2014. He said, “Most of the time the places we’ve taken them have been pretty accepting the only place that we have really had issues has been where we build them which is Pacific County.”
He adds that many people need them, but not everyone wants them in their back yards, “Originally we had wanted to provide some for our local homeless community. But after about two or three of them, we had the county commissioners pull us aside and they said that the huts don’t fit Pacific County’s building code ordinance.”
Administrators and first responders will agree that the building codes and zoning ordinances are in place to enforce a bigger concern; safety in an all-wood structure with one door and one window.
Building codes have been around since the 1700’s, and they were pretty strict back then. Babylonian code number 229 stated that if a man builds a house for another, and that house falls and causes the death of the homeowner, the builder shall be put to death.
Administrators at the city of Aberdeen are working on changes to their zoning ordinances that deal with camping, and the international building code plans to release a “tiny house appendix” in 2018.
Most of the codes and many of the issues we face in Aberdeen are no different than those I’ve seen in Seattle camps, where the city works with tiny house communities to carve out a livable peace between code and comfort.