Search PNC News for stories of people and churches in our UCC Conference:

Alki UCC is ready to help build 18 more tiny houses

Alki UCC in West Seattle is one of many congregations, faith groups, high schools, technical colleges, apprenticeship programs, businesses, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts who have recruited thousands of volunteers to partner with Low Income Housing Institute in the state to help build and donate funds and materials for tiny houses.

Members of the Alki UCC choir sing during the September dedication of eight tiny houses at Camp Second Chance. Photos courtesy of Cinda Stenger

Cinda Stenger, who is helping coordinate the project with Kathy Herigstad, said Alki UCC recently finished building its 13th tiny house at Camp Second Chance, 9701 Myers Way South in Seattle, five miles from the church.

They built the first eight tiny houses with $21,000 they raised at a dinner in February 2016.  Each house costs $2,500 to $3,000.

Camp Second Chance is an encampment of tents where the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) permits tiny houses to be built because it is in a rural area and there is space,” said Cinda, who is coordinating the effort of Alki UCC with Kathy Herigstad.

The church is working with others to raise $60,000 to house 18 more tent residents there in tiny houses.

LIHI is a state-wide nonprofit that contracts with the City of Seattle to give funding for administration, resources and case managers at the tiny villages.  LIHI is one of the largest providers of tiny houses in the nation.  It is in its 28th year of providing innovative solutions to the housing and homelessness crisis.

More than 300 tiny houses in 10 tiny house villages in the Seattle area have already housed thousands of singles and couples. In the last three years, LIHI social workers have helped hundreds of people obtain employment, healthcare and housing, moving 171 people from tiny houses to long-term housing in 2018.

Kathy Herigstad and Cinda Stenger.

“When we started building tiny houses at Camp Second Chance, it was just us.  Now volunteers from many groups come to build beside the tent residents,” she said.

The 10-by-12-foot houses are insulated, weatherproof structures with electricity, an overhead light and a heater. The villages include facilities with restrooms, showers and laundry, a counseling office, and a welcome/security hut where donations of food, clothing, and hygiene items can be dropped off.

Cinda said most tiny houses, which will last five years or more, house residents in transition into long-term or permanent housing.

“With the lack of low-income housing in Seattle, the 10 villages compete for a handful of apartment openings,” she said.

The tiny house residents experience the benefit of safety for themselves and their belongings, because they have locked doors, and a warm, dry space with a bed.  They can leave their tiny house to go to school or work, while those in tents hesitate to leave their belongings.

Overview of dedication of tiny houses.

“At Alki, we became involved when we formed the Faith and Family Homeless Project with a $10,000 grant,” Cinda said. “We educated ourselves on homelessness, learning what people experience. We participated in Seattle University’s 2012 Poverty and Homelessness Project.

Alki, a congregation with about 100 members, has a strong group of lay leaders and a core volunteer group taking responsibility.  They started with 50.  Now, at least 12 go to the encampment to build every Saturday.

Cinda has been involved in the congregation since 2001, when a co-worker at Nordstroms invited her to go to church with her.

“Everyone has pre-conceived understandings of what a person who is homeless experiences and what a camp is like, but after they go to a camp what they thought is transformed by their experience.”

On Sept. 22, the Alki choir went to the camp for a blessing of the eight houses that were completed.

“Volunteers build relationships and friendships with those at the camp,” she said.  “I was on a ladder painting the soffit of one tiny house and started talking with John who was on a ladder painting the side of the next house.

John crossed the killing fields on his grandfather's back, then emigrated to Thailand and finally the US. They settled in Califoronia in a Cambodian neighborhood, which was isolated without many prospects. This led to a life in gangs for most of the youth. So he grew up with violence, no stability or sense of home. At Camp Second Chance, he finally has stability and a strong sense of family in his camp community.

Another story is of an older gentleman at the camp. He lost his business with the 2008 recession, eventually losing everything: family, home andself worth. He was homeless and an addict for years. Now he is clean and sober, finding stability and strong community at the camp.

“Such sharing of stories is life transforming on both sides of the saw or ladder," said Cinda.

Kathy added, “We are building relationships with and reaching out to our neighbors at Camp Second Chance. This work is life changing to the volunteers and to the residents at Camp Second Chance. So many of the residents at CSC joined us in building the houses, taking ownership, partnering with us in the work that helped to make these houses a home.

"Until permanent housing is arranged for residents to transition into, these tiny houses provide a warm, dry and safe place to live. It has been a blessing to be involved in this vital work," Kathy said.

Cinda hopes the people "see our commitment to come to the camp and work on their behalf. We show up every week.  Many of them did not expect that people would show up every week to work with them.  Our commitment hopefully motivates people to apply for jobs or find other opportunities.

“Being around people who are homeless, we see that they are like us. Our prejudices and assumptions are wiped away as be build true relationships,” she said.

Especially after the choir came to sing at the blessing in September, some of the Camp Second Chance residents wanted to come to church.

On Dec. 16, Alki had a Christmas concert to raise money for the camp and for the work of West Seattle Helpline, which seeks to prevent homelessness by helping people experiencing financial crises stay in their homes.

About 30 residents of the encampment and tiny houses filled the two front pews.

“I’m impassioned as a leader at Alki to engage my faith community in the issues around homelessness,” said Cinda, who grew up Lutheran in Tacoma.  She moved to West Seattle when she was in her mid-30s and a friend invited her to Alki 17 years ago.

“The UCC appeals to me with its strong social justice emphasis,” she said.

Cinda said the leaders at Alki are available to share about their experiences with other congregations to spread the idea of building tiny houses.

LIHI seeks donations of funds and building materials for tiny houses, supplies and meals for the villages, and volunteers.  It also offers information on how to start tiny house villages.  For information, call 206-276-3552 or email

For information, call 206-356-7559 or email


Pacific NW United Church News - Copyright © January - March 2019


Share this article on your favorite social media Bookmark and Share