Tent cities for homeless people pop up like mushrooms in cities around North America. Sometimes they are tolerated for a while. Other times authorities get ugly. In Olympia, Washington the homeless tent city has a name, Camp Quixote. Faith communities have been offering them 90-day stays (the maximum allowed by law) in church parking lots since February 2007. The churches are part of a collaboration of faith communities called Panza, which advocates for tent cities and low-income housing and other issues of poverty.
Panza is an appropriate name for an organization that offers faithful service to the poor, as Sancho Panza did for Don Quixote in Miguel Cervantes’ novel. They act as a go-between between Camp Quixote and city and county officials. They raise funds and provide volunteers.
They also dream big. They know that people for whom life is a major struggle are traumatized anew each time they have to pack their tents and move to another location. So they began raising funds to build Quixote Village, a permanent village of tiny houses modeled after Portland’s Dignity Village.
They broke ground on June 8, 2013. An October blog post showed a row of cottages and the Community Building nearing completion. By Thanksgiving the cottages had been covered with siding. When completed, 30 one-room cottages will flank a 2600-square-foot community hall.
Quixote Village will give homeless residents a place of rest and access to services while they get back on their feet. Just how important that is was poignantly articulated by Joe French in an editorial in The Olympian. French said of being homeless:
[It] is almost like being a ghost. You start to wonder about your humanity when you’re not part of society anymore. It’s like being the walking dead.
Camp Quixote has already offered the comfort and dignity of a caring community. Quixote Village will add more to the mix: sturdy homes with heat and front porches, as well as communal space that includes showers, toilets, kitchen, laundry and meeting rooms.
Dignity, privacy and a door that locks are impossible dreams for people living on the streets. Quixote Village will makes those dreams come true and assist residents to move on to even better lives. They give me hope.
You can follow Quixote Village on Facebook.