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Jewels Helping Hands pushes for tiny homes as solution to homeless issue in Spokane

The non-profit organization estimates it would cost $11 million to fund the project during the first year of operation.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The city of Spokane put out a call to non-profits, asking them to come up with a price and a plan to run a new emergency homeless shelter.

Jewels Helping Hands responded with a different idea. Instead of a big building, they're suggesting more than 120 tiny homes to replace hundreds of tents along I-90 and Freya.

"All of them said is the reason they are in tents is because it's a door to shut," Jewels Founder Julie Garcia said. "It's their own private space and pallet shelters have been successful in producing thriving communities and not such a terrible optic for the neighborhood they are in."

Pallet shelters were created by a company in western Washington. They have a ten-year lifespan and take just an hour to set up. The units are mold resistant, can be hooked up to electricity and insulated up to -40 degrees. The 64 square foot units can sleep two people.

Jewels estimates it would cost $11 million to fund the project during the first year ($1 million for the tiny homes and $10 million for staffing and social services that would be located on site).

The property is owned by the department of transportation. WSDOT officials have made it clear that don't want the homeless camp there, but a spokesperson told us WSDOT is not going to put campers in a worse position by removing tents right now.

"Driving in our city and seeing 150 tents on the side of the freeway is not an optic anybody wants to see, nor is it humane," Garcia said.

Garcia says the tiny homes would be more visually appealing, especially for families in the neighborhood. Garcia says volunteers continue to teach campers how to be good neighbors.

"People experiencing homelessness are in survival mode," Garcia said. "Our brains don't even process things the same way so their concern is always how is this going to effect me? They don't seem to think yet how does this effect the neighborhood that's surrounding me."

Next week, the city of Spokane is expected to select an organization to run the new homeless shelter. Jewels Helping Hands is confident they will be selected, even with the $11 million price tag.

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