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Posted on: October 20, 2022

Hope is on the horizon for chronically unhoused people

This week, a new initiative to create a community village of microhomes for chronically homeless individuals was introduced to the Pierce County Council. 

Modeled after a successful community in Austin, Texas known as Community First! Village, the site would be built on 86 wooded acres near the Cross-Base Highway and Spanaway Loop Road. The village itself is planned for 27 acres, leaving the remainder as forested open space.

“I was very excited to see the success of Community First! In Austin helping those trapped on the streets with addiction and untreated mental illness. I’m eager to bring this model that restores dignity and wellbeing to the chronically homeless in Pierce County,” said County Executive Bruce Dammeier. “This proposal provides our most vulnerable with a chance for hope and a home – and our community with a solution they can believe in.”

When fully built, the village would house 257 formerly homeless individuals and include support services, healthcare, community gathering spaces and microenterprises. Residents would be expected to pay rent and contribute to the overall community.

 “Tacoma Rescue Mission (TRM) has been walking alongside our neighbors experiencing homelessness for over 100 years in Pierce County,” said Duke Paulson, Executive Director, TRM. “This community village partnership with our civic leaders and county officials provides for the common good of our community as a whole, giving hope and dignity to our unhoused neighbors who are often overlooked.”

A purchase and sale agreement for the 86 acres of land has been completed on behalf of TRM which would operate and manage the village.

TRM will be tasked with raising the necessary funds to build and operate the village and has already conducted preliminary research with potential donors. In addition to the $22.3 million available from Pierce County, a combination of state and federal funds, resident rent payments and private philanthropic giving is expected to fully fund the village’s development and operations. 

For the wellbeing of both village residents and the surrounding community, the village will have clear visitor expectations, guidelines, and rules alongside broader security protocols, which include:

  • Controlled entrance gate and fenced property
  • Surveillance system
  • 24/7 monitoring of the grounds
  • Monitoring the area outside the village
  • In addition to staff, 28 resident volunteers creating community and adding to safety

 “We are excited to move forward on this hopeful initiative,” said Heather Moss, director of Human Services for Pierce County. “While this is only one aspect of work we are doing with our partners to end homelessness in our community, it is an important, and potentially lifechanging, solution for those who will benefit from it.”

It is expected the Council will consider and vote on releasing the $22.3 million previously allocated in the current biennial budget for this project in the near future.

Should the Council vote in favor of the proposed village, a comprehensive engagement and outreach effort will be launched to answer questions and provide more details for neighborhoods on the perimeter of the site and surrounding community. 

More information about the proposed village, including initial architectural drawings and community layout, is available here.

 #  #  #

Libby Catalinich, director, Pierce County Communications
[email protected]

Myron Bernard, senior director of community engagement, Tacoma Rescue Mission
[email protected]
253-383-4493 ext. 1141

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