Permanent homeless camp opens near campus

Once homeless, some living in the woods, and with many traveling in tents for the last seven years, a community of 30 residents now can call Quixote Village their home. The property was purchased from Thurston County, residing on Mottman Road and only minutes away from the college.

28 of the cottages are 155 square feet, while two are a little larger to accommodate those in wheelchairs. All 30 cottages include their own individual gardening space out front. Inside each cottage includes a bed, storage space, and a half bathroom, with showers located in the shared community center.

We always dreamed of creating a permanent community that the homeless people could call their own and allow the residents to be self-governing, said Panza Board President Tim Ransom. Panza is a faith-based non-profit organization that started Camp Quixote. Less than a month ago on Dec. 31, the tent city became a community of permanent cottages which is now Quixote Village.

Beginning seven years ago, homeless people from across the community united together to stand up against protests from law-makers upset with homeless people sleeping on the streets in Olympia. It was just a political statement at first, said Ransom, when dozens of tents were pitched in downtown Olympia. Many churches took the homeless people in temporarily which we were grateful for, but they were tired of being so nomadic, he said.

There were many complaints from neighboring residents at first when they heard a homeless community was to build permanent homes nearby. The concerns even went to court on several levels, said Ransom, but with no avail. Now we have heard no complaints, he said. Ransom believes Quixote Village residents have even been a benefit to security in the area. Because of their protectiveness of their new community, they are quick to report suspicious and unfamiliar characters lurking in the neighborhood.

Rebekah Johnson, a current resident of Quixote Village, said she lived in the woods by herself for six months before hearing news of Camp Quixote. Now Johnson is a part of Quixote Village and remarked several times of being thankful for the safety features. Having a fenced-in area, being able lock the door at night, and the overall sense of security wasn’t something she experienced while living in a tent.

Johnson proudly showed off her cottage which can now hold her numerous collections of skull memorabilia, which she said before were kept in a tent. When you are keeping your possessions in a tent, you are always worried about your things being stolen, she said. I love living here, being able to have my own space and feeling safe, she said.

All residents are part of the community’s Resident Council that meets weekly to discuss concerns and plans for their village. Johnson said so far all the residents have been getting along and are helpful with one another. We get together at meal times and take turns providing dinner, she said.

The community house offers a lot of things for the residents that they could never have had living in tents, said Ransom. Here they have their own individual mailboxes, more bathroom space with showers, a living room area with a working wood stove, and a shared kitchen with refrigerators where they can lock up their own food.

Quixote Village was mostly funded by the government, but also by many donations and hard work from the residents themselves. Because of the federal funding, rules and conditions come with being a resident at Quixote Village.

Not just anyone can live here, said Ransom, Panza does thorough background checks of residents, and makes sure there is an agreed upon plan with signs of engagement in steps to be clean and sober at Quixote Village. There are also requirements including their income; all residents must have an income of 30 percent of the area’s median income. They also must pay a rent of 30 percent of their income.

Some other rules include only one person can live in each cottage and only three overnight guests are allowed per month where each are given a background check, Ransom said. No children are allowed to live in Quixote Village, another condition that came along with government funding.

Ransom said many of the people here are homeless because of drugs and alcohol or mental illnesses.
The people are not what makes this job difficult, said Ransom, finding the money to keep this place running is the hardest. He said he has not seen a government person step up to come up with funding long-term goals for solving homelessness, so that is Panza’s main concern right now.

A lot of Quixote Village would not be possible without the help from this community, said Ransom. We are leasing this land from Thurston County for a dollar per month for the next 40 years, he said.

The people here are in fact the most rewarding part of my job, said Ransom. He teared up as he recalled the residents moving into their new homes this Christmas Eve. Residents were able to enjoy a Christmas tree, a warm fire, and several donations. It’s the reward of knowing we’re helping neighbors that makes this job great, said Ransom.

What is mostly needed here is food, said Ransom, we have plenty of clothing and furniture. For more information about Quixote Village, visit their website at quixotevillage.com.

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