SEATTLE, Wash. -- When presented against the scale of Seattle's homeless problem, a $1 million investment seems paltry. But the award, announced Wednesday by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and Compass Housing Alliance, could guide the future of transitional housing in Seattle.

Compass Crossing, a pilot project, involves using purpose-built steel homes to house the homeless, rather than existing tent cities or wooden structures commonly found around Seattle.

"Because it's much less expensive, our hope is some of the resources that now go into housing projects could free up in the system and towards services," said Janet Pope, executive director of Compass Housing Alliance. "There just isn't enough public money to do both."

Unlike most existing, organized homeless encampments, Compass Crossing's steel homes would include storage, a kitchen and a bathroom. The privacy and dignity that allows goes a long way to helping transition the homeless into more formal shelter, Pope explained.

"At this point, I think we need to stop calling things transitional or permanent," she added. "We just need a response. Something to get people out of the tents and moving forward."

The pilot project will start in December with 13 homes. A gravel parking lot owned by Compass in the Columbia City neighborhood has been selected for the homes.