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Microhouses offer a temporary option for homeless

By Betsy Loyer of United Churches of Olympia

What began as a chicken coop had a ripple effect, becoming a new means of housing homeless people in microhouses.

Jeff Loyer is at work on building. Photos courtesy of Betsy Loyer

Jeff Loyer of the United Churches of Olympia drew up plans to remodel a chicken coop  he had made to serve as a “microhouse.” 

He and neighbor Dave of Faith Lutheran Church, Dan Andersen and Scott Bishop  of the Community for Interfaith Celebration then built a model. 

Lowe’s sold Jeff the materials for $500, which was $300 below cost.

Then Jeff spoke to United Churches co-pastor, Tammy Stampfli, and to Tye Gundel, co-founder of the Just Housing homeless outreach about the project.

Tye took the shed idea to the Nickerson Encampment, a camp supported by the United Churches for the last two years.  They liked the idea. 

The men built another microhouse, and delivered the two to the camp. Two women were the recipients.

Tammy encouraged them and then checked with Keith Stahley, the assistant city manager, because the camp is on city property. Together with the fire marshal, Keith checked out the assembled sheds. 

He said that the city could not “okay” the buildings because they were so small, and without insulation or electricity, but he saw them as a sturdy step up from tents and rat proof. 

Volunteers celebrate completion of six microhouses.

Roy Conover, chairperson of the church’s Community Connections, upon hearing that the city couldn’t officially bless these buildings, said, “Do we need permission to do good?” 

He and the church’s Community Connections Committee decided to fund five more microhouses. 

Pat Andersen agreed to coordinate the volunteers. 

Peter Cook recruited folks from the FAITH Alliance community, a network of local churches that work to create tiny houses and other emergency shelters. 

Deb Nickerson volunteered Interact Club at Black Hills High School. Despite terrible air quality from wildfire smoke, Jeff, Dave, Lisa Carroll and Jeff Hogan showed up.  So did Rebecca Allen and Joe Brown, both from the Interact Club. They built a microhouse in one day. Tammy provided lunch. 

The next day Jim Balz and Mark Hunter added their skills. 

Each day another microhouse appeared in the United Churches’ parking lot. 

Each evening someone quietly took shelter in one.

By Thursday, there were five, roofed and ready for painting. On Friday, the painters showed up:  Jane Appling, Ann Berney, Therese Springer and Karl Johnson from the Unitarian Universalist Church; Father Dave Geradot from Eumaeus Ecumenical Catholic Church, Dan Andersen and me. 

Saturday more painters came: Tim and Tammy Stampfli, Lynette Hunter, and Dean Paulsen. 

The following week, Dan, Jeff and Duane Johnson, along with folks from the Nickerson Encampment loaded and delivered them to the camp.  

Friday afternoon, Jeff received an email from Keith saying the City of Olympia secured $110,000 in funding to build another 50 and would seek funding for a total of 100 microhouses to replace the failing tents at the Mitigation Site downtown.  Providence wants to help fund them. 

Longshoremen from the Port of Olympia are eager to help build and deliver microhouses to their destination. 

Homeless people may be hired to help with the construction.   

One little chicken coop grew into a small village.  How many more people will be blessed by the ripple effect of “doing good?” 

The song, “For All the Saints” keeps running through my mind.   

Jeff and I have been members on and off for years. We transferred to the UCC church in Ballard when they were living in Seattle. Jeff is a retired computer engineer.

An article in The Olympian described the microhouses as “a dry place to stay” at Nickerson Encampment, which the United Churches has supported since 2018.

The basic sheds are built from 2x4s, screws and six prefabricated plywood panels that can be taken apart and put back together again with power tools.

Jeff also helped with Camp Quixote and helped build tiny houses at Westminster Presbyterian.  When COVID-19 hit, he began building a backyard chicken coop over the summer.  By fall and cooler weather, he applied his engineering skills to create shelter for people he met in the tent encampment. 

The structures are not meant to be permanent and are not on par with tiny houses that have power and insulation, but they keep out rats and provide security tents lack.  People can put their things inside and lock the door.

United Churches has purchased propane heaters and arranges trash pick up and water delivery. 

The City of Olympia added a water spigot, port-a-potties, a dumpster and a hand-washing station.

For information, call 360-942-1210 or email


Copyright © December 2020 - PNC-UCC News



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