Amber Truex, program manager at Ryan’s House for Youth, turns flips on the lights in a micro-home donated to the youth organization by the Oak Harbor High School robotics team. (Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group)

Amber Truex, program manager at Ryan’s House for Youth, turns flips on the lights in a micro-home donated to the youth organization by the Oak Harbor High School robotics team. (Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group)

Central Whidbey nonprofit has big plans for tiny house

A recent donation to Ryan’s House for Youth proved too good of an opportunity to pass up, even if it can’t be used yet.

“The micro home was kind of sprung on us,” said program manager Amber Truex. “We’re not going to say ‘no.’”

Oak Harbor High School’s robotics team built a “micro home” last March in an effort to address homelessness in the community. However, time started running short on how long they could store the home until an agency to donate to could be chosen.

With the guidance of district homeless liaison and Spin Cafe founder Vivian Rodgers Decker, the team settled on Ryan’s House, located just south of Coupeville.

On 17.5 acres, Ryan’s House is a nonprofit organization aimed at supporting homeless and at-risk youth.

Truex said the micro home, and others like it, would be ideal for the transitional housing program.

Leadership at Ryan’s House is still working on the logistics for how that vision can be achieved, she said.

The self-contained, mobile micro-home would be considered an RV by Island County code, according to Building Official Andy Griffin. He said the group’s site plan review would need to be amended to develop an RV park to use the structure.

Truex said tiny homes have been in the conversation for a while as a “second stage” in the transitional housing program, which services 18 to 24 year olds.

Those who qualify can stay in a room on the Coupeville campus for up to two years while receiving support on budgeting, schooling and a plan to find permanent housing.

To qualify, the young adults are required to either be a full-time student or be employed. Rent starts at 20 percent of the participant’s income and slowly increases, capping at 30 percent.

For the full-time high school students, the number one goal is graduating so support on homework and other assistance is provided to help achieve that, she said.

Truex said the idea is to ensure the young people are saving money while learning “whatever adulting-type skills” they may need. She said the program has had a high success rate for successfully placing people in housing before two years are up.

Tiny homes would provide opportunities for increased independence and privacy for those in the program, she said. The robotics team’s 8-by-10-foot unit is completely self contained.

It’s powered by solar panels, heated by propane and the toilet composts its contents. It contains a bed, bench, stove, shower and toilet. It’s also licensed and can be hooked up to a trailer and towed.

“The robotics club did an amazing job,” Truex said. “The possibilities are really endless.”

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