Life is more than a tiny bit easier, safer and

more dignified for members of Seattle’s homeless population thanks to five teenagers and the congregation they inspired. For their final confirmation class project

at Peace Lutheran Church, Seattle, the teens partnered with the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) in 2016 to build a “tiny house,” an 8-by-12- foot structure that serves as a temporary home for people who otherwise would have no place to live. “We’d been trying to think of a project we could

do and were trying to think outside the box,” said confirmation class member Alyssa Bernd. “We were trying to think of something that could be bigger than the typical project.” In their quest to come up with a big idea,

Alyssa and her classmates—Katharine Menstell, Joanne Robson, Ginny Sunde and Julianna Boeckh—were moved toward something small yet intensely powerful in the way it translated faith into meaningful action. On any given night in Seattle, one of America’s

rainiest cities, more than 3,000 people are sleeping on the streets. Statistics show that 69 homeless men and women died in King County in 2016. Into that challenge waded the confirmation

class. The small (roughly 100 worshipers per Sunday) but vibrant all-age-group congregation in the West Seattle district is a few miles from the skyscrapers, sports stadiums and homelessness of the city’s downtown area. “We had helped with homeless programs in the

past,” Ginny said. “We all feel for homeless people but aren’t always sure that our efforts, such as making care packages, really make a difference.” The girls started seeing “these little houses

popping up around the city,” said Alyssa, who pitched the idea of building one after reading a newspaper article about the tiny-house initiative that had been launched by LIHI. The first tiny house went up in 2013, and

LIHI currently manages six such sites around Seattle. The houses are insulated and have doors

30 JUNE 2017

and windows that lock, and the sites are legal encampments with food, water, toilets, a kitchen, security and case management services.

Gathering blueprints Peace’s confirmation group quickly jumped on the idea of building a tiny house, using James 2:15-18 as its first blueprint. Of course, the girls also needed an actual

blueprint—that’s where LIHI and construction partner Home Depot came in—and before that, $2,200 to buy the necessary building materials. An informational presentation to the

congregation and a fundraising drive produced the needed cash. Then the work of procurement and project management began. “LIHI has an arrangement with Home Depot,”

said Steve Bernd, Alyssa’s father. “We raised the $2,200 and gave it to LIHI, and they gave it to Home Depot, and we got a blueprint and all the supplies we needed. Then we had a construction party, like a barn raising, right at the church.” The work took place in August 2016. Serving

as the job superintendent was Peace’s pastor of 12 years, Erik Kindem. Kindem, who co-teaches confirmation with

Nicole Klinemeier, Peace’s director of youth and family ministry, has a construction background that came in handy in guiding a crew of 50-plus with varying levels of carpentry expertise. “We needed someone with that kind of

experience,” Steve Bernd said. “There was some trickiness to it. It took us the good part of two full days to get all the sides up and get the meat of it done, and then there was still a lot of fine tuning. But we even had people who don’t belong to our church working with us. They just heard about the project and wanted to help, which was really cool.”

Faith in action The tiny house is now in place and occupied at LIHI’s Georgetown encampment in south Seattle. “This was a very concrete, very tangible

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