Chrys Ostrander 
Member since Jan 16, 2014


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Re: “Tiny Houses

I like this community of homes for homeless folks in Olympia. It hits me at different levels.

One is that I live in a tiny house and I am thrilled that there is a vibrant tiny house movement happening. We who have a greater range of choices can learn from the formerly homeless of Quixote Village to be appreciative of smaller, more efficient spaces. It gives me hope that our culture is capable of down-sizing. We don't have a future if we aren't.

Another level it hits me at is, these are the kinds of small homes I would like to see farmers able to construct on their farms for seasonal farm workers (which, of course, would only be possible if these houses were exempt from current zoning restrictions on the number of dwellings allowed per parcel that we have even in our areas zoned for agriculture and which don't make sense if we really want our local food system to become vibrant again). As long as workers' rights are respected and working conditions and wages are good-- which would have to be hardwired in as a prerequisite-- such structures could provide safe and comfortable housing for seasonal farm workers.

This story about Quixote Village is also a ray of light in our community's homelessness crisis. I'm glad to see some innovations happening to help the homeless around the country and I hope it's a sign that our society is finally seeing the crisis as unacceptable and solvable.

One of the things I would like to see is county governments getting more involved in serving the homeless population by working with community and public health organizations to provide peri-urban or rural, multi-purpose shelters that utilize the therapeutic power of involvement with agriculture to help people rebuild their lives. I would like to see a contemporary renaissance of the old County Farm model for providing safe and constructive environments for a diverse population of people (homeless, recovering, abused, etc.) These folks would benefit from the positive experiences that life on a working farm, along with programmatic support, could impart. The farm could produce food for its own use and send surplus to food assistance agencies or sell to institutions.

I could see a place for small houses such as those at Quixote Village on a County Farm, along with group housing.

County Farms would not cure homelessness and other social ailments but they could present an alternative to urban-based shelters and support programs. I would think it best for enrollment in County Farms to be voluntary.

I predict that in the near future, more opportunities for jobs and careers in local food production will proliferate through local economies. One side benefit of the County Farm model would be that a percentage of alumni from County Farm experiences might discover a love for, and establish a skill set for, food production. They could transition from lives of alienation and dejection to those of inclusion and pride as an outcome of having the County Farm alternative presented to them as an alternative opportunity in their times of need.

Here's an idea for how the county could acquire land for a County Farm (if it doesn't already have a suitable parcel): The Conservation Futures program is funded through Spokane County property taxes to "acquire, preserve and otherwise protect the County's open space, streams, rivers, and other natural resources." It is chartered to "protect threatened areas of open space, timberlands, wetland, wildlife habitat, agricultural and farm lands, streams and water supplies within the county boundaries." I direct your attention to the words "agricultural and farm lands."

To date, conservation futures has not preserved any working farmland, but I think that people could lobby hard for the next round of nominations for acquisition, coming in 2015 or 2016, to include at least one working farm, possibly with the idea of it becoming a County Farm. Even if such a farm was not set up as a therapeutic center, it could alternatively become an agrarian trust and continue to be worked by tenant farmers operating under a long-term stewardship agreement. This could be one way to address the problem of lack of access to land for young, new farmers.

5 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Chrys Ostrander on 03/10/2014 at 6:02 PM

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