Philadelphia is preparing to unveil the Northeast’s first Tiny House Village. The Living Community is designed to transition homeless people into permanent housing by providing them with shelter and a mailing address to help them secure employment and other social services to get them back on their feet.
Sanctuary Village, which will be located on land owned by the City of Holmesburg, will be the first of its kind on the East Coast, according to Cathy Farrell, chair of the nonprofit’s board of directors. The small village of houses is modeled after a similar venture in Seattle, which uses short-term housing for those moving out of homelessness and into a more stable environment.
At the end of 2020, the city sought non-profit proposals for the construction of a small village of houses. The project was part of an agreement that closed a
on Benjamin Franklin Parkway earlier that year. After Farrell learned of the success of Seattle’s Tiny House Village program in providing transitional housing for the city’s homeless population, she and the other members of the nonprofit sent in a proposal. to the city and were later approved to develop their own project.
“I really like the concept of people coming together in community,” Farrell said. “(Residents) will support each other through the process of getting back on their feet and living independently again after a long time.”
Although things are not yet finalized, Sanctuary Village could accommodate between 12 and 30 people in short-term increments as soon as next summer. Each Tiny House will be 96 square feet, with a 4-foot porch around the front of the building. The one-room house will include a window in the front of the house and will be furnished with a bed, desk, chair and college-size refrigerator.
Although each building will be equipped with its own heating and air conditioning system, the plumbing will be concentrated in a centralized building which will include a kitchen area, bathrooms and a laundry room. Residents will be able to decorate their tiny house themselves, painting the walls and arranging the furniture.
Each resident will be assigned a case manager, and volunteers will help provide job training, resume workshops, and help with paperwork to help residents obtain health care and other social services. Since Sanctuary Village is only looking to house a maximum of 30 residents at a time, Farrell said the nonprofit will help place tenants in permanent housing at the end of their stay.
“The downside is that it’s not permanent,” Farrell said. “It’s like a lifeline – come in, we’ll help you get your life back on track, heal and when you’re ready you can move into permanent accommodation.”
Residents will be referred to the Tiny House Village through referrals from the Office of Homeless Services and Welcome Church, which work with homeless communities in Philadelphia. There is no application process and vacancies will be filled as tenants move into permanent housing.
Sanctuary Village is one of two proposed small villages that could come to Philadelphia in the next few years.
Mosaic Development Partners, a North Philly-based real estate company, has developed a slightly different short-term housing model that eliminate homelessness for 26 residents, with priority for people over 62 or living with a disability. The timing of the project – which would be located in Mill Creek – remains uncertain, although it will be funded by COVID-19 relief funds.
Although Farrell said the small town of Philly “shamelessly copies” Seattle’s program, it differs in several ways. For one, Philly’s zoning laws require homes to be structurally sound and more deeply attached to the ground than those in Seattle. On the other hand, homes must be built to withstand Philadelphia winters and harsh weather, including strong winds during hurricane season.
Small Home Villages are seen as an effective strategy to reduce homelessness in Seattle
In 2015, Seattle Housing Institute for Low Income People started building its small villages of houses in response to the homelessness crisis and as a replacement for tent camps, allowing people to transition into permanent housing, find stable employment and connect to social services .
There are 17 villages in Seattle operated by LIHI. The construction of each small house costs approximately $4,000 and includes electricity and heating. Each community shares a laundry room, kitchen and bathroom.
The houses are meant to be transitional properties, helping homeless people settle into permanent housing as they find employment. According to the LIHI, about 65% of people stay at home for less than six months. 29% of people stay for up to two years and only 6% of people stay longer than two years.
In 2020, the Seattle City Council passed a measure to expand the small villages of houses in the citybuilding up to 40 communities in vacant lots. Although he was hailed by organizers and Washington Governor Jay Inslee as a effective strategy to reduce homelessness and helping people transition into housing, Washington’s Tiny Home Villages aren’t without their challenges either.
Complaints about hoarding and the illegal dumping around a village earlier this year were apparently met with silence from Sharon Lee, executive director of LIHI. Community members around the village complained that the villages looked good for a few months after they were built, but then fell into disrepair.
At Rosie’s Place, a small village of homes in Seattle’s University District that can house up to 70 residents, residents help support the cleanup effort by sweeping and keeping the area around their homes and community clean and clean. free of loose papers, waste and used syringes. .
“Here we are a family,” said Ejay Henry, operations manager at Rosie’s Place. KUOW. “I have my office that looks like this (filled with colorful artwork) for a reason, because I want them to feel like, ‘Dude, come over here; we are a family, we take care of each other, you have security, you are safe here. This is how my village is run.
Although Rosie’s Place has had some problems since it began housing tenants in 2018, its organizers remain supportive of the concept, especially as cities across the country face an affordable housing crisis. While not long-term housing, Kings County Regional Homelessness Authority officials noted that the small home villages are just one part of a larger system of housing options. to reduce homelessness.
A small hometown in Salt Lake City has also been approved for 430 units in total in Octoberrenting a total of eight acres of recovery housing to provide a transition from homelessness to stability.
The Village in Salt Lake City costs approximately $13.8 million and is primarily funded by contributions and donations rather than government funds. Construction has yet to begin, although officials believe the tiny homes are a valid strategy to reduce homelessness due to the importance of having a permanent address to obtain a bank account, permanent housing , employment or some form of medical assistance.