tiny house village, seattle
Workers put the finishing touches on stairs for homes in Seattle's new Tiny House Village for the homeless.Low Income Housing Institute via Facebook

A small village of tiny houses is about to open in central Seattle to shelter an increasing number of homeless who have been sleeping on the streets and in tents.

"We know that we can't solve all of this with 14 tiny houses, but we feel like it's a start," said Melinda Nichols, a volunteer and the board president of the Low Income Housing Institute, one of the non-profit organisations that helped build the village on property owned by a local church.

The mini-homes in the new village on Union Street are insulated, equipped with electricity and have doors with locks. The size of a small bedroom, each home will be fitted with heating units throughout the winter and fans in the summer. There's no furniture but some of the homes have sleeping platforms.

A larger central building to be shared has toilets, hot and cold running water, and will soon be equipped with a shower. Residents are expected to pay $90 (£60) a month to cover utilities and will stay up to six months as they transition to more permanent homes.

Having a home is a "lot less stressful" than being homeless, said Dennis McCrea who has been sleeping on the streets and has moved into one of the homes he helped build. "You can think about what you have to do to move forward not where you are going to sleep every night," he told the local Fox-TV station.

The only thing Seattle, a city of some 650,000 people, still needs for the homeless, say advocates are a few thousand more such mini homes. The annual homeless count in Seattle a year ago found 3,800 people in shelters and an additional 3,800 on the street, up 21% from the previous year. This year's homeless count will be completed before the end of the month.