OPEN LETTER: LIHI mistreatment of tiny house village residents
On January 18, 2023, several volunteer mutual aid groups that support unhoused people sent the following letter to Seattle City Council and Mayor, King County Council and Executive, the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, and members of the Housing and Budget committees in the Washington State Legislature:
We the undersigned call for immediate action by State, County and City agencies to end the ongoing mistreatment of unhoused and formerly unhoused people by the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI).
As mutual aid volunteers, many of us have kept in touch with unhoused friends that have been swept from their locations and placed into tiny house villages and other transitional housing, mostly those managed by LIHI. Many of us are hearing repeated stories of abuse, neglect, and dishonest practices by LIHI, including:
• Inconsistent regulations, randomly enforced, varying from village to village.
• Undertrained staff, absent case managers, favoritism.
• Unfair evictions, lack of fair appeal process, reprisals for complaints.
• Constant surveillance and checks, yet no safety from theft or crime or bodily harm.
• Lack of mental health support.
• Hygiene and food facilities not maintained; health and safety hazards not addressed.
• Lack of outside oversight for finances, donations, staff behaviors and actions.
• A culture of not caring: problems and complaints ignored, staff untrained in mediation, conflict resolution, or trauma-informed care.
• Two deaths, in two separate LIHI villages, going unnoticed by staff for more than seven days, despite supposed regular unit checks.
LIHI has developed an entrenched monopoly on a whole category of services for unhoused people, and has used that monopoly to avoid accountability and oversight for questionable financial practices and unacceptable treatment of residents.
We support tiny house villages as harm reduction measures and as transitional housing while people wait for permanent stable housing. Until permanent housing is widely available, tiny houses provide shelter that can save lives. The lack of sufficient permanent housing resources can force people to spend months or years in tiny house villages, and staff need to be trained in resolving conflicts and maintaining community, privacy and dignity under difficult conditions.
LIHI’s ongoing mismanagement of tiny house villages is undermining trust in the whole project of transitional housing, as well as undermining trust in those municipal institutions that have supported LIHI’s long-term monopoly. LIHI’s monopoly is bad for the health of the ongoing project of moving people out of homelessness.
• A full outside audit of LIHI practices, finances and use of public funding.
• Establishment of an ongoing third-party oversight and accountability process for LIHI.
• Immediate steps to shift hiring and funding to alternative providers and alternative management models to dismantle LIHI’s monopoly.
• Preemptive steps to prevent any LIHI reprisals against residents of their villages and buildings that have shared their stories with us.
Aurora North Mutual Aid
Community Care Mutual Aid
Give a Damn Collective
Greenwood Mutual Aid
Homies Helping Homies
Long Haul Kitchen
Neighbors on I5
North Beacon Hill Mutual Aid
North Seattle Neighbors
A Single Spark
Stop the Sweeps
Wallingford Mutual Aid
West Seattle Mutual Aid Party
A Will and A Way
Since January 18, more mutual aid groups have signed on to the Open Letter, including:
Beacon Hill Neighbors Collective
Casa del Xolo
Coffee Not Cages
The Noodle Exchange
South Beacon Hill Mutual Aid