Uninhabited in the seaside has been neglected in the cold due to the delay of small houses
SEASIDE, OR – Robert Byrd knows what it takes to survive the winter outdoors in Seaside. He built a rock wall around his tent, a tarp awning, and had two portable heat sources. He camps in the one place the Seaside’s homeless are allowed to go, but it comes with its own coastal challenges.
“Here it’s flooded and it’s flooding everywhere,” Baird said.
Bill Dennington, who lives next door to Byrd in his RV, is one of the lucky ones as cold weather approaches. He said many homeless people wake up to all their blankets and sleeping bags soaked in water.
“It’s hard to see. I don’t know how they get by in the winter. It gets really cold and wet,” Dennington said of others at the camp who live in tents, like Byrd.
Ironically, it’s the threat of winter weather that’s actually holding back more shelter openings in Seaside.
Across the city, 15 small homes for about 30 homeless people sit on an empty lot, still wrapped in plastic. Kevin Peppercorn has lived in Seaside for seven years. He first noticed them in April.
“They’ve been there for months, and it looks like nothing has been done,” he said, pointing to the white structures, many of which have not yet been assembled.
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Clatsop Community Action, a local nonprofit that helps the homeless, purchased the tiny homes. It turns out that there are certain building requirements for the City of Seaside that prohibit their installation.
“Sometimes during our winter months, the weather is extreme here on the coast, so our area’s building codes have some high requirements for weathering storms and winds,” Seaside City Manager Spencer Kyle explained.
One example of these rules is that new structures such as tiny houses must be able to withstand winds of up to 135 mph.
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“Honestly, I wouldn’t want to be in one of those if the wind was blowing 70 or 80 miles per hour…it looks really flimsy to me,” Dennington said.
Kyle added that the main goal is to make sure the tiny homes are built safely and that the people living there will be in a safe environment.
The city is still waiting for the nonprofit to finish those inspections and submit all of their building plans before granting them installation permits. KGW has reached out to Clatsop Community Action to find out the reason for the delay but has yet to receive a response.
“That’s not true, is it? It’s a slap in the face when you know they’re here. It’s obviously the red tape and the bureaucracy that gets in the way,” Pepperkorn said.
Once the tiny homes are eventually built and homeless people move in, there are still some roadblocks due to the lack of permanent, affordable housing in Seaside. Clatsop County recently received some state funding to build more housing, and the city of Seaside is lobbying for some of that money to get to them.