Photograph of a large one-story building with vinyl siding and wood paneling standing behind a sign that reads “Quixote Village: Supported By Panza · quixotevillage.com.”
Photograph of approximately 20 tents surrounded by trees and shrubs.
Photograph of nine cottages with a meandering walkway in front of them.
Photograph of a vegetable garden with a one-story cottage with a front porch in the background.
Photograph of a large kitchen with two stoves, two dishwashers, two sinks, and an island with several containers of prepared food and stacks of dishes.
Photograph of six people in a large room with chairs, a couch, and presents around a Christmas tree.
Photograph of several rows of vegetables in a garden behind a one-story building.

 

Home >Case Studies >Addressing Homelessness in Olympia, Washington

 

Addressing Homelessness in Olympia, Washington

 

Quixote Village, a self-governed community with 30 cottages and communal space in Olympia, Washington, was awarded a 2015 Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence for its innovative approach to providing permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless adults. The village began as a tent camp in a public parking lot that was set up to protest an ordinance prohibiting the city’s homeless population from sitting and lying on sidewalks. The camp has evolved into a permanent supportive community that has changed local perceptions and approaches to the issue of homelessness.

A New Approach for Olympia

The protest by homeless persons and advocates, which began in 2007, highlighted a disconnect between the needs of Olympia’s homeless population and the city’s efforts to address them. According to Tim Ransom, board president of Panza, an organization formed to support the homeless, Olympia had a “rudimentary” understanding of homelessness; “The city’s response was to try to hide homelessness.” Thirty homeless adults set up tents in what they called Camp Quixote hoping that permanent housing would result. The camp quickly met with resistance, however, when city police vowed to remove the tents and arrest protestors who did not cooperate. In response to this pressure, a local Unitarian Universalist church offered its grounds as a temporary location for the camp.

Support for the protestors grew as church leaders in the cities of Olympia, Tumwater, and Lacey and in Thurston County stepped forward to provide temporary space for Camp Quixote. The faith community was able to convince each of the jurisdictions to pass ordinances to legalize homeless camps on religious property as a temporary use for up to six months. Panza, which was formed out of this initial relationship between the camp and faith communities, organized volunteers to support Camp Quixote’s system of self-governance, daily operations, and moves from church to church when each temporary use elapsed. Even with a high level of volunteer support, the camp continued to be self-governing; residents established a code of conduct, attended weekly meetings to enforce the code and address issues of communal living, and elected a leadership group every six months to assign chores, collect dues, and purchase supplies.

Building a Village

Community support for the area’s homeless population began to grow as Camp Quixote’s positive effect on the lives of its residents became more evident to the camp’s volunteers and neighbors. These advocates helped muster the resources needed to replace the moving tent camp with a permanent village that the residents had been hoping for. Residents and Panza secured 2.17 acres owned by Thurston County and convinced Olympia’s city council to pass an ordinance allowing single-room occupancy as a conditional use in the light industrial zone. Quixote Village opened on Christmas Eve 2013, providing residents with a permanent home that includes private houses and shared facilities. Although village residents retained many self-governance responsibilities, Panza became the legal landlord and manager of the site, collecting rents and housing choice voucher payments and assuming oversight of admission and eviction decisions.

Quixote Village’s 154-square-foot cottages are heated and include a half bathroom, a bed with storage space below, a small closet, a stool, and a desk. Outside each cottage, residents have a 10-square-foot porch as well as a personal garden and lawn, which residents chose over having larger cottages. The village also contains community facilities, such as a 2,640-square-foot communal building with additional toilets, bathing facilities, a laundry room, gathering space, staff offices, and a kitchen. In addition, Quixote Village has a communal garden spearheaded by one resident that provides enough vegetables for the residents with a surplus that is donated to local food banks. The village’s permanent private cottages and communal amenities help ensure that residents have a comfortable and supportive community that could not be created in a nomadic camp.

Quixote Village Financing

The development of Quixote Village was made possible by a diverse mix of funding, as well as donated architectural and engineering services (table 1). The village was also able to save significantly on land costs through a 40-year, $1 lease from the county for a site valued at $330,000. Most of the funding for the $2.9 million project came from a $1.5 million allocation from the Washington State Department of Commerce Housing Trust Fund. The village also received $659,000 in community development block grant funds, $170,000 from the county, and $224,000 in donations from various sources.


Table 1. Financing for Quixote Village

Washington State Department of Commerce Housing Trust Fund

$1,550,000

Community development block grant funds from Thurston County

604,000

Community development block grant funds from Olympia

55,000

Thurston County document recording fees

170,000

Community donations

224,000

Land value

333,000

Total

$2,936,000

Creating Stability

Quixote Village is designed to serve individuals who have experienced chronic homelessness, offering permanent housing and a moderate level of support services. The site employs two full-time staff, a program manager, and a resident advocate who works with each resident to identify appropriate services. Some services are provided onsite, but residents are directed to other programs when necessary. Since 2013, 46 previously homeless individuals have lived in the village. Although some have had to leave because they violated the substance abuse policy, the village has been a stabilizing force for most residents. Some of the residents have secured employment, six have enrolled in college or community college, and one is pursuing a General Educational Development certificate. Moving on from Quixote Village is not a stated goal of its permanent supportive housing model, but some individuals have relocated to be closer to their jobs.

A Model for Establishing Trust and Community

Quixote Village is near capacity and has a waiting list of 20 individuals. Although the residents’ self-government now pertains primarily to the social aspects of the village, the resident leaders have helped build a sense of community with social gatherings such as sports telecasts, barbecues, and personal celebrations. The village has also held communal holiday meals for residents, Panza board members, and other guests. In addition, village leaders have hosted a Halloween celebration with trick-or-treating for local youth. In addition to the Rudy Bruner Award, Quixote Village and Panza have also received the Phoenix Award from Behavioral Health Resources’ Community Mental Health Foundation. With this recognition, Quixote Village has become a national model for the benefits that a small-home village can provide to those experiencing homelessness.

Source:

Quixote Village. n.d. “FAQ.” Accessed 13 July 2015; Community Frameworks. 2015. “Tiny Houses: A Permanent Supportive Housing Model.” Accessed 13 July 2015; Interview with Tim Ransom, board president, Panza, 29 July 2015; Northwest EcoBuilding Guild. n.d. “Subsidized Housing in a Light Industrial Zone at Quixote Village.” Accessed 13 July 2015.

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Source:

Tim Ransom. 2014. “2015 Rudy Bruner Award Application.” Accessed 27 July 2015; Tim Ransom. 2014. “Camp Quixote → Quixote Village,” 7. Homeless. Accessed 25 August 2015; Northwest EcoBuilding Guild. n.d. “Subsidized Housing in a Light Industrial Zone at Quixote Village.” Accessed 13 July 2015; Interview with Tim Ransom, 29 July 2015; Community Frameworks. 2015. “Tiny Houses: A Permanent Supportive Housing Model.” Accessed 13 July 2015; Quixote Village. n.d. “FAQ.” Accessed 13 July 2015.

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Source:

Interview with Tim Ransom, 29 July 2015; Tim Ransom. 2014. “2015 Rudy Bruner Award Application.” Accessed 27 July 2015; Northwest EcoBuilding Guild. n.d. “Subsidized Housing in a Light Industrial Zone at Quixote Village.” Accessed 13 July 2015.

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Source:

Community Frameworks. 2015. “Tiny Houses: A Permanent Supportive Housing Model.” Accessed 13 July 2015; Tim Ransom. 2014. “2015 Rudy Bruner Award Application.” Accessed 27 July 2015; Interview with Tim Ransom, 29 July 2015.

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Source:

Quixote Village. n.d. “FAQ.” Accessed 13 July 2015; Interview with Tim Ransom, 29 July 2015.

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Source:

Interview with Tim Ransom, 29 July 2015; Community Frameworks. 2015. “Tiny Houses: A Permanent Supportive Housing Model.” Accessed 13 July 2015.

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Source:

Interview with Tim Ransom, 29 July 2015; Tim Ransom. 2014. “2015 Rudy Bruner Award Application.” Accessed 27 July 2015.

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Source:

Documents provided by the Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo; Correspondence from Lenny Grant, 29 June 2015; City of San Luis Obispo. 2014. “South Broad Street Area Plan.” Accessed 30 June 2015; Interview with Scott Smith, 18 June 2015.

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Source:

Correspondence from Scott Smith, executive director of the Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo, 21 June 2015; Interview with Scott Smith, 18 June 2015; Correspondence from Scott Smith, 22 June 2015; Documents provided by the Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo.

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Source:

Interview with Scott Smith, 18 June 2015; City of San Luis Obispo. 2014. “South Broad Street Area Plan.” Accessed 30 June 2015; Interview with Lenny Grant, 17 June 2015; Correspondence from Lenny Grant, 19 June 2015.

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