With the accelerated growth of the housing market over the past five years, the unspoken truth is the rise of the homeless population within cities across the United States. According to the 2018 annual report by The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, approximately 553,000 people in a given night are homeless in the United States, with only 65 percent staying in sheltered locations. In order to solve this issue, not-for-profit groups have taken the minimalist idea of tiny homes and applied it to reduce the number of unsheltered individuals within their community. This increase in tiny home villages for the homeless has sparked legal and safety concerns for government agencies. Therefore, cities across the country have been forced to consider the tiny home solution to homelessness while maintaining the health, safety and economic viability of their communities.
One of the most successful tiny home communities is Quixote Village in Olympia, WA., which shelters 30 individuals in a transitional supportive housing project funded by parts of the state budget, federal grants, and community donations. Panza, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization doing business through Quixote Village manages the 30 144 sq. ft. units of the tiny home community. This organization acts as the legal landlord for the community under state law, with elected staff handling the daily operations. Their mission is to use this safe housing environment to not only reduce the unsheltered population but to provide stability and recovery for residents suffering from substance addictions and psychological trauma. Using Quixote Village as a general framework we can see how tiny homes could merit significant consideration in solving the national homelessness dilemma.
Below are three critical factors which lead to success at Quixote Village.
1. Quality Control
Essential for keeping the functionality and longevity of tiny homes, communities must offer a way to ensure quality for individuals moving into tiny homes as well as the maintenance of those structures throughout their residency. Quixote Village operates with a staffed office, containing an Executive Director, Program Manager, and Case Manager/Resident Advocate. The staff handles the overall operations of the tiny homes including admissions, evictions, and daily management. The village also contains a five-member resident committee that gives internal feedback to staff.
2. Standards and Zoning
Because zoning laws vary between states, the option of creating a tiny home village for the homeless will depend on the desired location. However, there are building codes that tiny homes must follow. The regulations were published in the 2018 International Residential Code released by the International Code Council. The Code provides a framework to keep housing uniform and under codes while establishing an area for sustainable emergency shelter. According to the Tiny Shelters Report by the Washington State Advisory Council, they recommend this as a successful intermediary emergency housing plan between homelessness and permanent residency.
3. Crime Rates
Another category of concern is the centralization of the homeless population whose background includes a high level of substance abuse, inflicted physical violence, and potential psychological issues. In an article by The Guardian researching the link between crime and homeless villages, five of the eleven villages studied had decreased crime in their surrounding neighborhoods.
For Quixote Village, tiny homes offer a stable life for residents through peer mentorship and community interaction. In a recent article, Quixote Village staff members Raul Salazar and Jaycie Osterberg express the importance of having new residents sign a lease agreement providing mandatory conditions to maintain residency within the village. Through this model, individuals participating in the tiny home community are only allowed to stay when they maintain a safe and hospitable environment.
The trend of using tiny homes as a strategy to decrease the population of homeless individuals in the United States is growing more permanent as sustainable and ethical models are pushed to the forefront. With this innovative idea, major metropolitan hubs across the nation have begun establishing these villages effectively, proving that tiny homes have the capability to provide quality living conditions and address the issue of homelessness.
Many organizations have found that an investment in technology, such as to permit software or code enforcement software, essential to implementing a new strategy. MyGov would enjoy the opportunity to learn more about your project and how we can help.