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Denver’s tiny house village

Tiny homes serve as potential homelessness solution

A tiny home community in Denver.
Photo: John Mazzetta · The Sentry

It hasn’t been an easy journey for the 11 little 8×12 homes of the Beloved Community Village. Pioneering a housing forward concept in the city of Denver, the village has established itself as a place to get people experiencing homelessness off the street and into an environment where they are able to get back on their feet.   

While there is no officially accepted definition of what a tiny home is, the movement prides itself on living simply in small spaces, typically averaging 500 square feet or less. This lifestyle is appealing to individuals whose objective is to take up less space for various reasons, including environmental and social agendas.   

However, with the Tiny Home Industry Association estimating only 85 to 90 “known” tiny home developers throughout the entirety of the United States, the new movement has a long way to go.

The city of Denver is no stranger to homelessness. The Colorado Village Collaborative lists the homeless population at 5,317 in metropolitan Denver alone. It comes as no surprise that the lurking adversary that is homelessness has not left students untouched. Recent studies by Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab have shown that 36 percent of college students are food insecure, an additional 36 percent are housing insecure, and 9 percent are homeless nationwide.

This issue affects the Auraria campus as well, with the CU Denver food bank seeing 341 students in the 2018 Fall semester alone. As current and former university students continue to struggle with crippling financial debt, many students may look to alternative living arrangements, like tiny homes, that cater to their needs.

The Beloved Community Village was initially developed in 2017 in the River North Art District.  It has moved once previously to its now current location near 38th and Blake Street, following a rejected application to Denver Public Works to move the village to Zeppelin’s taxi campus amidst flooding concerns in November 2018.   

The village has finally found a permanent home on 4400 North Pearl Street in the Globeville neighborhood. The Globeville location would allow the village to quadruple in size, bringing a brand-new common space, showers, flushing toilets, and even a kitchen.   

The new move hasn’t gone as smoothly as planned. Cole Chandler of the Colorado Village Collaborative, the organization managing the tiny house community, said that the team is “hopeful that we can move forward in the coming days when the city votes on the new location.” 

“There is significant pushback from the neighborhood, and as the CVC fully understands the concerns of some residents regarding such a new type of development, we hope that they might return some of that goodwill,” Chandler added.  This appears to summarize the generally negative disposition towards the homeless residents of Denver from other residents and city officials.

Challenges aside, the results show a promising future for this innovative project. At the end of the first nine-month evaluation, all but one of the initial 10 villagers were either attending school or employed, and three had found permanent housing. 

Additionally, per the CVC website, there has been no increase in crime around the village, and almost 90 percent of neighbors reported no impact or a positive on the sense of community in the neighborhood. Tiny homes like the Beloved Community Village believe they are setting an excellent precedent for solving America’s homelessness crisis.

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