Home­less res­i­dents are given a big lift: life in tiny res­i­dences

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Joella Bau­mann The Den­ver Post

Den­ver’s crowd-funded tiny-home project has run into sev­eral road­blocks, but more than a week ago, 14 res­i­dents moved into their new com­mu­nity and on Satur­day they in­vited re­porters to see it.

Eleven 8-foot-by-12-foot homes and a bathing house fill the Ur­ban Land Con­ser­vancy-owned prop­erty at 38th and Wal­nut streets. There are also sev­eral ta­bles cov­ered by three white pop-up canopies, which are a tem­po­rary so­lu­tion for the miss­ing food-prep and liv­ing-room space.

Terese Howard of Den­ver Home­less Out Loud said the more per­ma­nent, cylin­dri­cal build­ing should be there any day. It was was de­layed be­cause it needed ad­di­tional per­mits.

Satur­day, af­ter a week of set­tling in, a con­fer­ence was held to thank those who made the com­ple­tion of the project pos­si­ble and also to show off the much-an­tic­i­pated com­mu­nity.

“We didn’t build this vil­lage be­cause we like cute tiny houses,” said Howard. “We built this here be­cause we have an ex­treme hous­ing cri­sis. Thou­sands and thou­sands who don’t have a place to call home.”

Each tiny home has a painted gray ex­te­rior, wooden steps, a small stoop and a white door. In­side is a sin­gle room with two win­dows and hard­wood floor­ing.

Howard en­cour­aged peo­ple to view the com­mu­nity as a spread-out home and to view each res­i­dence as a bed­room.

Colorado Vil­lage Col­lab­o­ra­tive is a com­mu­nity-based or­ga­ni­za­tion founded by DHOL, Beloved Com­mu­nity Men­non­ite

Church, and an ag­gre­ga­tion of other or­ga­ni­za­tions and vol­un­teers.

For Amanda Mc­dougald, it was al­most serendip­i­tous. She left drugs, home­less­ness and an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship in Killeen, Texas, four months ago to start over in Den­ver.

“It’s a huge bless­ing, I’m so grate­ful to have every­thing,” she said. “I was lit­er­ally wo­ken up (the morn­ing of July 21) be­ing kicked by cops be­cause I was ‘tres­pass­ing’ by sleep­ing some­where that said no loi­ter­ing. And that same evening I was mov­ing into my own home. I have keys and a house and a bed, I’m so grate­ful.”

But the vil­lage is not out of the woods yet. This is a 180-day pi­lot project to es­tab­lish proof of con­cept. ULC granted a six-month lease of the prop­erty for $1 per month.

Dur­ing that time, they will be scru­ti­nized by the city to make sure that a safe and hab­it­able en­vi­ron­ment has been es­tab­lished for the res­i­dents. Af­ter sixth months, the homes will hope­fully be un­bolted from their cin­der blocks and placed per­ma­nently on soil.

“Our sixth-month count­down be­gan (July 21),” said Nathan Hunt, the pro­gram di­rec­tor for Eco­nomic Jus­tice with In­ter­faith Al­liance of Colorado. “We have a few dif­fer­ent (per­ma­nent) lo­ca­tions in mind. From here, we will fig­ure out a lo­ca­tion that works best for the res­i­dents for trans­porta­tion and other fac­tors.”

The lucky 14 were cho­sen based on risk and need. DHOL chose six of 60 ap­pli­cants through an in­ter­view process and then let those six chose the re­main­ing res­i­dents.

“Peo­ple who can­not or will not, for good rea­sons, stay in shel­ters,” said Hunt, de­scrib­ing the res­i­dents: “Trans peo­ple, the LGBTQ com­mu­nity in gen­eral, peo­ple who work odd hours, peo­ple with anx­i­ety and other dis­or­ders.”

Other than meet­ing a risk fac­tor, the ap­pli­cants need to be cur­rently home­less and com­mit to the ba­sic non­nego­tiable rules: no vi­o­lence, weapons, il­le­gal drugs, dis­crim­i­na­tory or op­pres­sive be­hav­ior. They also must par­tic­i­pate in main­te­nance of the com­mu­nity.

While 54-year-old By­ron Steele is grate­ful for a place to call home, he said the home­less prob­lem will still con­tinue to bal­loon out of con­trol if the real is­sue, which he said is men­tal ill­ness, is ad­dressed.

“I’m not here to fake the funk.” he said. “I’ve never in my life seen so many 19- to 20-year-olds walk­ing around talk­ing to them­selves. To con­trol home­less­ness you have to get con­trol over men­tal health.”

Gabriel Scar­lett, The Den­ver Post

For­merly home­less Rhonda Romero greets her friend Eric out­side her new tiny res­i­dence in the River North area of Den­ver on Satur­day.

Gabriel Scar­lett, The Den­ver Post

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