Magnolia resident Aunie Wickstrom takes fried chicken to Interbay Safe Harbor Tiny House Village every month to feed its residents, but also to find catharsis following the death of her daughter.

"It was a healing process, and I decided that one of the ways I could heal was to take food down to the village…" Wickstrom said. "Everybody seems to be so happy and I get so many hugs. It's definitely a healing process for me."

As she has gotten to know the residents who live in Interbay's tiny house village, Wickstrom realized that she is probably getting more from her generosity than the folks on the receiving end of it, she said. As a result, she has become a cheerleader for their community.

"Oh my goodness, I am so proud of them," Wickstrom said. "You should see their garden. Their garden is just amazing. They have all these raised beds with all these beautiful things. I just feel so full of pride for everything they've done and how well they're doing, and for hearing that they are moving to permanent homes. So I have to say, 'Thank you for all you've done for me.'"

Wickstrom said this at a gathering for public comment about plans for a one-year extension of the Interbay Village’s lease with the Port of Seattle on Wednesday, Sept. 11, at Magnolia's Church of the Ascension.

Originally Tent City 5, the village moved to its current location on the Port of Seattle’s Tsubota property near Magnolia Bridge in 2017. Interbay Safe Harbor Tiny House Village was one of the first three villages of its kind in Seattle.

The possible extension of Interbay Safe Harbor Tiny House Village's lease with the Port of Seattle received next to no opposition at the meeting.

Seattle Human Services acting director Jason Johnson gave some context regarding the operation of Seattle's tiny house villages.

"In 2017, the City of Seattle really made an intentional shift in how we were going to invest in human services programs that address homelessness, and we wanted to both increase the quality of programing that we were investing in, but also increase the quantity," Johnson said.

At the time, there were thousands of people living on the streets — there still are — in need of support, resources and opportunities, and the city was looking for new ways to provide them.

Some of those investments include the eight tiny-house villages across Seattle that provide shelter to residents who would otherwise be on the street. The goal is for people experiencing homelessness to use the tiny-house villages as stepping stones toward more permanent housing.

"At the Human Services Department, we look at success by how many people are able to move through programs and into permanent housing," Johnson said. "We are no longer satisfied with simply supporting people while they are homeless. We want to be part of the solution."

There are currently eight tiny house villages providing 300 units for people living unhoused every night, with 37 percent transitioning into permanent housing. Interbay's village boasts a higher rate — 46 percent — for the same metric.

A few residents of Interbay's village detailed their experiences with the program, and the community that they and their fellow villagers have created, during the Sept. 11 gathering.

Patricia explained how she was the living example of why her village exists.

"I never thought I'd be homeless…" she said. "What I will say about the tiny cabin is that it gives you an opportunity to (improve) yourself without some of the dynamics that you have in shelters. You actually have your own space. I work. I go to school. I'm applying for housing, and that wouldn't have been able to be done if I was on the street, which I was."

Magnolia resident Lisa Verner said she has supported the village for years.

"It has been fabulous," she said. "I have been so impressed by the people who live there and the resources they have used to help themselves and help the rest of us."

Sue Olsen, another Magnolia-based supporter of the lease extension, said she has lived in Magnolia for more than 40 years and involved with the village for about four, back when it was Tent City 5 and located behind QFC.

She remembers gloomy, wintry days when tents would leak and tarps would flap in the wind as people did their best to weather the elements.

"My reaction to the news of a homeless camp in my neighborhood was: 'These folks are going to become my neighbors and they are going to need some help,'" Olsen said. "So that's when I got involved."

She said her church, Magnolia United Church of Christ, went all-in on the effort to support their new neighbors. Apart from joining in with other congregations to provide more aid to village residents, Olsen's church began hosting regular hot meals and providing basic essentials for those in need.

"Over four years of involvement, I have seen and heard how important it is for residents to have a stable roof over their heads, heat and light, and a lock on the door…" Olsen said. "It's really wonderful to hear how they are making use of everything that the village is offering and getting their lives back on track. The residents of Interbay Village have always forged the community that is an asset to the surrounding neighborhoods.

"I am really, really happy to call them neighbors, and I urge Port of Seattle to do the right thing and extend the lease for the land on which Interbay Village sits."