04/08/2015 04:03 pm ET | Updated Apr 08, 2015

Teens Create Tiny Home Village For Seattle's Growing Homeless Population

Some Seattleites are challenging what's possible when it comes to the local fight against homelessness.

Nonprofit Sawhorse Revolution is the brainpower behind the Impossible City -- an "eco-village" being built for a homeless community in Seattle. The nonprofit -- which teaches local high school students carpentry so they can better engage and serve their communities -- is teaming young participants up with engineering, architecture and construction professionals for the project.

The effort will help Nickelsville, a local homeless community, by building personal and secure shelters for residents to sleep, a solar power hub that will allow for lighting and warm water at night, composting toilets and a community cook space for meal preparation.

Scroll to see renderings of a personal shelter, solar power hub, composting toilet and community cook space. Images courtesy of Sawhorse Revolution. (Story continues below.)
sawhorse revolution

solar power hub

sawhorse revolution toilet

sawhorse revolution cooking space

Seattle -- which now trails only New York City, Los Angeles and Las Vegas in numbers of homeless individuals, according to NPR -- is grappling to curb a growing crisis. A point-in-time count in January found 3,772 people were living without shelter in King County (which encompasses Seattle) -- up 21 percent from the year before.

The figures reflect the city's failed attempt to end chronic homelessness in 10 years -- a goal it enacted about a decade ago.

Scroll to see students in action on The Impossible City project. (Story continues below.)
green house homeless
Photo: Sam Hunt

sam hunt homeless project
Photo: Sam Hunt

alec gardner homeless project
Photo: Alec Gardner

nate watters homeless project
Photo: Nate Watters

Part of Seattle's homelessness problem, NPR reported, is a lack of affordable housing.

"They need to quit trying to charge $1,300 a month for a 400-square-foot studio," Gary Eyerly, a homeless veteran, told the news source. "It's the Seattle gold rush. Go buy an old apartment building, put some new paint on it, triple the rent: 'Wow, I'm a millionaire.'"

It's a dire situation Sawhorse Revolution is aiming to alleviate by empowering Nickelsville residents. According to the nonprofit, formal encampments, like Nickelsville, improve chances that residents will secure stable homes for a variety of reasons -- one being that they allow residents to have a secure spot to store belongings, which is important when they need to go to work or to a job interview, for instance.

"We don't have any illusions about the Impossible City solving homelessness," Sarah Smith, the nonprofit's program director, said in the video above. "But what we can do is show our students that you can make a real difference in people's lives by reaching out, coming together with your community and helping shape something with your own hands."

The project has raised more than $23,000 of its $32,205 goal as of Wednesday. You can support the project by clicking below.

To help fight homelessness on a national scale, support PATH (People Assisting The Homeless) by using the Crowdrise widget below.


  • 1 The pho is pho real.
    The density of Vietnamese restaurants in Seattle is unreal. One of the most renowned is Than Brothers, a local chain serving up the best bowls of pho. There are at least 45 restaurants in Seattle with pho in their name, and even more Vietnamese restaurants that serve it. (And FYI, it's pronounced "fuh," not "foh.")
  • 2 Cream cheese + hot dog = The Seattle Dog.
    It even has its own Wikipedia page. I mean, just ... come on now.
  • 3 The coffee is knock-out good. But it's NOT from Starbucks.
    Original photo: Starbucks
    Don't even think about suggesting that Starbucks is the coffee of Seattle. (Or Seattle's Best, for that matter.) There's a little espresso drive-thru just about everywhere you turn. Or, if you're looking for a place to sit, check out Caffe Vita, Victrola, Caffe Ladro, or Vivace.
  • 4 Pike Place Market. Because, duh.
    This is a food lover's paradise (and a flower lover's paradise too). Sure, you can pick up a bounty of fresh produce and check off items on your grocery list, but you should also try the baked salmon sandwich at Three Girls, a bag of cinnamon sugar donuts from Daily Dozen Donuts, or crumpets and tea at The Crumpet Shop. Feeling overwhelmed by the copious options? Head to the Athenian and take a moment to gather your thoughts with the coldest beer in Seattle while watching The Seattle Great Wheel as the ferries come in.
  • 5 Speaking of Pike Place Market, how about those geoducks?
    No, they're not pronounced "geo-ducks," but rather more like "gooey ducks." Sure, that doesn't make them sound any more appetizing, but fans of the mollusk think they're pretty glorious despite being incredibly unattractive.
  • 6 Speaking of geoducks, there's fresh seafood everywhere.
    Salmon, smoked salmon, dungeness crab, oysters, halibut ... just try to escape it. You'll never have to buy frozen fish again. (And yes, even the locals like to watch the fish being thrown at Pike Place Market.)
  • 7 All that fresh fish means exceptional sushi.
    Shiro’s is an institution that you need to check out. Chef Daisuke Nakazawa, who was trained by Jiro Ono of the popular documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," worked at Shiro’s prior to opening his spot in New York, Sushi Nakazawa.
  • 8 The chowder rivals New England's.
    A Seattleite will tell you that Ivar's clam chowder destroys anything made in New England, any day. Take that.
  • 9 There's legal marijuana. And it's in the food, too.
    Brent Hofacker via Getty Images
    Now that marijuana is legal in Washington State, pot has made its way into food, drink and baked goods. Places like Uncle Ike's not only sell weed, but delicious baked goods, too. Need we say more?
  • 10 Dick's is the perfect late-night pick-me-up.
    Dick's Drive-In has been a Seattle institution since 1954, serving up old school burgers and shakes. Order from the window (it's not a drive-thru type of place) off the menu, which doesn't feature a single item over $2.90. Open late, it's the perfect meal after a boozy night.
  • 11 The locals have fully embraced the farm-to-table movement.
    Damn The Weather
    The city is loaded with farm-to-table restaurants, and one of the newest restaurants achieving this style at a high level is Damn the Weather at Pioneer Square. A beautiful, romantic and cozy space, Damn the Weather isn't solely about delicious, reasonably priced food (the Caesar salad sandwich is a revelation) -- it's also got perfectly crafted, incredibly inventive cocktails.
  • 12 The microbreweries are on fleek.
    Elysian Brewing
    Seattle and the Pacific Northwest in general have an abundance of microbreweries, one the best of which being Elysian (which, sadly, has just been sold to Anheuser-Busch). There's also Black Raven Brewing Company, Georgetown, and Hilliard's, to name a few.
  • 13 Even the cupcakes are socially conscious.
    Cupcake Royale
    Crazily, Cupcake Royale is the nation's first cupcake bakery to open outside of New York City. Their flour comes from local wheat farmers, their dairy is local and growth hormone free, and their eggs are cage-free organic. They also give away 40,000 cupcakes every year to raise funds for local non-profits, so these are cupcakes you don't need to feel guilty about.
  • 14 It's easy to find hard-to-find ingredients.
    Uwajimaya is one of the largest Asian grocery stores in the Pacific Northwest, where you can basically find every Asian ingredient you can't find anywhere else. Want to make your own dashi for your ramen? This is the place to go. (They also make a mean cup of tea and coffee.)
  • 15 The Mexican food is affordable and phenomenal.
    For cheap eats (the best kind), check out Rancho Bravo. Located in an old KFC building in Seattle's "hip" Capitol Hill neighborhood, this place fills you up for $5. The locals also recommend El Camion in Ballard for their $1.50 tacos, and the burrito is big enough to last you all day. If you smile while you order, you might just get a Mexican Coke on the house.
  • 16 Two words: Seattle teriyaki.
    The immigrant culture in Seattle has created its own version of teriyaki that really hasn’t been replicated anywhere else.
  • 17 Blackberries. They're everywhere.
    Monkey Business Images via Getty Images
    Blackberries are so abundant in the Pacific Northwest that they're actually considered an invasive species. This means a plethora of blackberries pies, jams, ice creams, cocktails, and more. Make sure to pay the region a visit at the end of summer to find them at their peak.
  • 18 Ezell's Famous Chicken has the market cornered on frying.
    Esquire named this stuff "the most life-changing fried chicken in America." Bonus points for having gizzards and livers on the menu, which ups the street cred. Get yourself to an Ezell's, stat.
  • 19 You'll make best friends with Molly Moon.
    Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream shops are basically filled with magic and happiness, and they make flavors like "Scout" Mint and Bruleed Grapefruit Sorbet, and Meyer Lemon. Seen here: Thai iced tea ice cream. Sigh.
  • 20 It's home to some of the best vegetarian sandwiches ever.
    The Honey Hole
    The Honey Hole is a sandwich shop that'll change the way you think about those little slabs of bread and cold-cuts you pack for work. According to our sources, their vegetarian sandwiches alone are worth the trip (don't worry, carnivores, they've got plenty of meaty options, too).
  • 21 Rachel’s Ginger Beer is everything.
    Rachel's Ginger Beer
    Fresh, fragrant, and not too sweet, Rachel's Ginger Beer comes in flavors like Strawberry Rhubarb, Asian pear, Cranberry-Apricot, Blueberry, and Carrot Beet.
  • 22 Apples, man. Apples.
    Helen Cathcart via Getty Images
    Seattlelites love their cider (make sure you hit up Capitol Cider). Why do they love it so much? Oh, I don't know. Maybe because Washington State produces about 70 percent of the apples grown in the United States. HOW ABOUT THEM APPLES. *mic drop*