History of LIHI
LIHI is rooted in a commitment to advocacy for low-income and homeless people. LIHI’s early emphases were providing advocacy and technical assistance to promote the interests of low-income and homeless people. LIHI worked to support the efforts of homeless individuals who established an emergency shelter in a “bus barn” at the Seattle Center in 1990. The result of this effort was the development of the 57-unit Aloha Inn, the first self-managed transitional housing program in the country for homeless people. This was followed shortly after by the renovation of Arion Court, which provides 37 units of permanent self-managed housing for homeless people.
The Aloha Inn and Arion Court were, at their inception, revolutionary concepts for implementing democratic decision-making and self-governance among traditionally disenfranchised populations. Principles of mutual housing, or self-management, now guide many of LIHI’s properties—equipping program participants with opportunities for meaningful decision-making and shared responsibility for the management of their housing.
Operation Homestead (OH)
In May 1991 Operation Homestead (OH) occupied Arion Court, a vacant apartment building, to draw attention to number of vacant housing the City was letting deteriorate while there was a large need for affordable housing. As a result of the protest, LIHI was able to acquire the building, renovate it, and turn it into 37 low-income housing units.
The incorporation of LIHI as an organization in 1991 resulted from the leadership of three founding board members: Frank Chopp of the Fremont Public Association, Michael Reichert of Catholic Community Services, and Scott Morrow of SHARE.
LIHI filled a void in the community for creating self-management and developing innovative housing solutions.
The Fremont Public Association (FPA) merged its Housing Development Department with LIHI in 1994 to create a dedicated housing development and management organization. LIHI became an affiliated program of FPA, and Sharon Lee was named the Executive Director.
Urban Rest Stop
In 1994, LIHI received the One Heart grant for the restoration of the Glen Hotel, the opening of the Boom Town Café and the creation of the Urban Rest Stop, a downtown hygiene center. In 1995, neighbors of the Glen Hotel filed a lawsuit in an effort to stop the construction of the hygiene center. After a lengthy dispute, characterized by tremendous advocacy efforts by LIHI’s management, and an outpouring of
community support, the Urban Rest Stop was finally opened in March 2000 at a different downtown location (1924 9th Ave). In 2013 LIHI opened a second Urban Rest Stop in the U District and in 2015 a third in Ballard as part of the Cheryl Chow Court development.
In 2001, LIHI celebrated its 10th year anniversary and reflected on its record of accomplishment. The Board, management and key stakeholders/funders also embarked on developing LIHI’s infrastructure to ensure our growth over the next 10 years. These partners lent their expertise and worked with LIHI to increase our capacity. Significant emphasis was placed on examining and improving property management operations, systems and practices, and in strengthening fiscal management.
Our commitment to residential stability and quality of life led to the creation of LIHI’s Supportive Services department in 2002. The Supportive Services department provides program participants with case management, life skills training, technology access and training, financial literacy training and savings programs, and activities for some of the more than 850 children in LIHI housing.
LIHI’s second decade was remarkably productive, developing on average of over 2 projects a year. During the economic downturn of 2008 LIHI had the opportunity to acquire properties in the U District, Bellevue, and Ballard at bargain prices that allowed us to build affordable housing in locations where it would be very difficult to do just a few years later.
Gossett Place: Due to the economic downturn of 2008, a for-profit developer had to abandon a boutique hotel project in the U District.
LIHI was able to buy the property in a nearly shovel-ready state and develop quickly by making only minor changes to convert the hotel plans into affordable housing units.
In 2013, LIHI hosted a homeless tent encampment on our then vacant property at 2020 South Jackson Street. LIHI wanted to do better than tents and began to build wooden shelters to replace them, thus birthing the Tiny House Shelter program, which has grown to have locations in Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, and Bellingham and has become a national model for cities looking to improve their homelessness response.
Perhaps LIHI’s greatest strength is our sense of mission and our commitment to social justice through our housing development, management and advocacy work. While LIHI has grown to be a more mature organization, our sense of spirit and determination to do the right thing and serve as a catalyst for change remains!