Yakima shelter to add tiny homes, RV hookups to provide security for those in need

Yakima City Council to vote Tuesday on proposed lease agreement for Camp Hope

YAKIMA, Wash. — Camp Hope is planning to expand its housing options to increase shelter capacity and options for people living without shelter in Yakima County.

The Yakima City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday night on a proposed lease agreement with Grace City Outreach — which operates Camp Hope — that would allow the shelter to operate for another two years.

The proposed lease agreement also includes new provisions allowing them to add RV spaces with full hookups and purchase and install tiny homes called Pallet shelters.

“We think this is a much better solution than having them out there on the streets,” Camp Hope Director Mike Kay said.

RV hookups provide an alternative to secure overnight parking lot

According to the annual point-in-time survey, there were at least 663 people experiencing homelessness in Yakima County in 2021. Kay said Camp Hope has about 160 to 200 residents on any given day.

“I know that we are all very supportive of what Camp Hope is doing and they do a very good job of taking care of the most vulnerable population that we have,” Yakima City Council member and assistant mayor Soneya Lund said.

In December, the council started looking into options to help address the epidemic of people living without shelter. They considered setting up a secure parking lot down the street from Camp Hope that would allow people living in their cars to sleep safely.

READ: Yakima to consider safe parking lot for houseless people

Kay presented the idea for a lot with RV hookups on the same property as the existing shelters instead, which would allow people to park safely and live with some privacy, while still being able to access mental health and case management services.

“This is a much better alternative: this puts those unsheltered folks in touch with services immediately,” Lund said. “And honestly, that’s kind of the goal, right? To get those experiencing homelessness connected to services that can get them out of homelessness.”

Pallet shelters to provide safe space for families, couples or people needing security

Camp Hope is also planning to bring in tiny homes called Pallet shelters that cost about $10,000 each for a smaller model housing one to two people. Kay said he hopes to purchase other shelters big enough to house families.

Even with a recent expansion, Kay said their existing family shelter — where families live dorm-style in a converted classroom portable — is constantly at capacity and there’s a dire need for additional spots.

“We have large lists of people that would love to be in something like this, but they just won’t come off the street until we have a solution like this,” Kay said..

READ: Yakima nonprofit plans to build homeless shelter for minors

Kay said the Pallet shelters have heat, electricity and can be put up, taken down and moved easily. He said the shelters can house single residents who are unable or unwilling to stay in a group or dorm-style setting.

“The first phase we’re going to do would be as many as 10 of these for people that cannot do congregate living: maybe they have traumas or something like that that’s going on, but they require that locking door,” Kay said.

Kay said the tiny homes may also provide a space for couples who have been living together for a long time, but are not married. He said many shelters require couples to be married in order to share housing.

“I think that the more options we give people, the more dignified it is, the more likely they are to invest into what the program is with case management and so on because we’re trying to meet their needs. We’re trying to take away that toxic stress. I think that’s just a winner all the way around,” Kay said.

Kay said they’ve received enough donations to pay for three Pallet shelters so far, but are waiting to purchase them until they have enough funding for 10.

The Yakima City Council will be voting on whether to approve the new lease agreement for Camp Hope at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at their regular business meeting.

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