- Associated Press - Sunday, October 2, 2016

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) - A nonprofit in northern Idaho is urging city officials to consider building a village of tiny houses to help keep some people warm through winter.

Similar projects have been erected in Seattle and other major cities, The Spokesman-Review (http://bit.ly/2djOjBt ) reported. The homes are about the size of a bedroom and have electricity.

Gar Mickelson, the homeless outreach coordinator for Heritage Health in Coeur d’Alene, says volunteers have already built a model 96-square-foot home to help start discussions about the project.

“If we can do something like this, maybe in two years there’s no need for it anymore. I hope and pray that there won’t be a need for it anymore,” Mickelson said. “But for now, there’s dozens and dozens of people who are forced to be outside.”

The idea has already received support from local churches and business. However, Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White says a homeless village could cause public safety concerns because chronically homeless people can be a drain on department resources.

“I am highly skeptical,” the chief said. “We have our fair share of problems with that population.”

Coeur d’Alene police officers have issued 112 warrants for drug violations, sex offenses and other crimes to transients this year, White said.

According to the state’s annual January count, northern Idaho has an estimated 450 homeless people spread out over five counties. Of those sleeping outdoors, 74 were children under age 18.

Randy Rogers, a former cook who is currently homeless, says that having a warm and secure place to sleep at night would relieve worry and avoid conflict with the police.

Seattle recently built three tiny-house villages, with a total of 45 cabins. Drugs and alcohol are banned, and the camps are run by residents, said John Jay Syverson, facilities manager with Seattle’s Low Income Housing Institute.

Mickelson is still looking for a possible location and is planning on holding several community meetings about the project.

“It’s going to happen,” he said. “We’re going to do this thing.”

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com

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