A Solution – Tiny Home Villages

Lazing on A Sunny Afternoon.

When there is not enough permanent low-income housing available for our growing homeless population, it only makes sense to allow homeless people to organize themselves, and provide housing for themselves!

Cities across the country, from New York to Oregon, are realizing that Tiny Homes,  also known as Micro Housing are a more affordable and dignified option than Emergency Shelters.

Why are Tiny Homes Catching on?

Tiny Homes are creative and beautiful Each Home can be personalized! Unlike the “People Storage” model of public housing and shelter systems, each house can be built with dignity, beauty, and creativity in mind. And each house can be modified to the needs and tastes of each inhabitant.

– They are Cheap to build!… And a Cheap Long Term Solution too! – OM (Occupy Madison) Build, a group using Tiny Homes to provide housing for homeless folks in Madison, Wisconsin, came up with a smart design – houses built on trailers for $5000 each – OM Village
Opportunity Village in Eugene, OR, formed a Company called Backyard Bungalows that designs and builds Tiny Homes for $2500 each. They build them without trailers and using volunteer labor to keep the prices low.

Many Villages have built partnerships with local groups and get sponsorship from private donors and community support – and therefore don’t have to compete for already stretched federal and local government dollars.

-A cost analysis of Dignity Village, a Tiny Home community in Portland, OR, shows the difference. Dignity Village is a self-governed community of up to 60 people at any given time, all of whom contribute weekly “sweat equity” to help run the village. Many of these individuals – such as couples without children, and people with pets – were unable to find housing or assistance within traditional shelter models before coming to Dignity Village. (Source: Portland Housing Bureau)

Program Type Estimated Cost Per Person Per Night Tiny Home Community Name Estimated Cost of Construction Per House*
Tiny Home Community (Dignity Village) $4.28 Quixote Village (Olympia, WA) $87,500
Warming Center $12.59 Community First (Austin, TX) $30,000
Emergency Shelter $20.92 Second Wind Cottages (Newfield, NY) $12,000
Rent Assistance $24.60 OM Village (Madison, WI) $5,000
Supportive Housing $32.37 Community Supported Shelters (Eugene, OR) $1,000
Motel Voucher $54.00 Beloved Community Village
Transitional Housing $66.56 *Source: YES! Magazine
Prison cost (in Colorado) $83.22* Source: Vera.org

They are ecologically minded – According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings (including single-family homes) make up 39% of CO2 emissions in the United States.
While there is much to be said for the many innovative ways builders and architects have found to decrease carbon emissions in new “green building practices”, The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality found that the number one way to reduce a home’s impact on the environment was to simply build smaller homes.

They Provide More Options, More Dignity – Aside from the fact that Denver Lacks enough shelter beds in general – there are estimated to be at least 6 people experiencing homelessness for every bed available – most shelter options don’t fit the populations they are trying to serve.
See: PIT Report 2014
-5,812 people were counted as being homeless on one given night in the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative’s Point in Time Survey (an admitted undercount) while there are only roughly 1,000 shelter beds and motel vouchers available on any given night.
-47.9% of Homeless in Metro Denver are Women, while the majority of services are intended for single (straight) men.
Most families are unable to maintain custody of their children if they experience homelessness for more than a brief period of time. Consequently, most people have to split up and go to separate shelters in order to get inside at night.
-There is only one Shelter in Denver which will allow a same-sex couple to stay together.
-Most shelters do not recognize transgendered identities and therefore are ill-equipped to ensure a safe environment for transgendered/LGBTQ people.
-There are no shelters available for people with pets. Many do not even accept service animals.
-Many Shelters are not ADA compliant.
-Most shelters are overcrowded impersonal places.
Tiny Home Villages are able to offer more flexible environments in which the needs of people staying there are able to be met.

-Tiny Home Villages are built with Community in Mind – Because each home is only so big (human sized) – residents are oriented to spend more time outside of their personal dwellings and in common spaces. For many, this is an opportunity for healing as many have experienced isolation throughout their time on the streets and in Shelter Systems.

Tiny Home Villages can provide a sense of Agency Having one’s own space to take care of, rather than being forced to sleep on a mat near 300 other people, can be a healing experience. Having a door to shut and a sense of privacy can give people a sense of worth. And having the village run by residents themselves gives people a sense of agency, communal accountability, self-respect, and worth that shelter systems can’t offer.

Because tiny home villages are run by the people who live in them (the real experts on homelessness), they are smart, efficient and creative solutions to homelessness that work.

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