Tiny homes help Denver’s most vulnerable

Provides transitional housing

There is only one tiny home village in Denver, but a second one may be on the way. Beloved Community Village is a small collective of tiny homes built by and for a community of people who have experienced homelessness. Located in the RiNo neighborhood, the village houses 11 units, a bathing facility, and a circ house—a multi-functional shelter that is easy to assemble. Since July, the community village has served as a home to 14 individuals, but the demand is much higher. St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, located near Five Points, is looking to create another tiny home village.

At the beginning of 2018, the Beloved Community Village was relocated to an adjacent lot. The community operated as a “pilot program” under a six-month permit, but the permit was due to expire at the start of 2018. The village is home to Cersilla Wolf, who is a student at CCD and hopes to enroll in a music program at CU Denver. “When I sleep in my bed, on my loft, and I get on my computer and I practice on my guitar or whatever, I’m not just simply surviving here—I’m living,” she said.

Photo by Olivia Couch

The Denver Housing First Collaborative was created in 2003 by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. DHFC has a capacity of 100, and it received 622 applications by its sixth month of operation. In 2005, a second Housing First team was created to serve an additional 80 homeless individuals. In early 2016, another initiative was set in motion to create more transitional housing opportunities and received  an increase in support in 2018 from the city. The initiative aims to eventually help 250 participants. But these initiatives, as well as others, clearly do not have enough room to address the needs of everyone who is struggling with housing.

The difficulty in establishing more transitional housing opportunities such as the tiny home village lies, in part, with acquiring permits. Building codes for plumbing in particular are still being worked out. In other cities, housing collectives usually have a central plumbing unit, but regulations in Denver state that each unit must have it’s own plumbing, which adds significantly to the cost of each unit. In Utah, 91 percent of chronically homeless individuals were able to find housing due to tiny housing units, since their cities allowed for communal bathrooms instead of individual unit plumbing, making construction more viable.        

The St. Andrew Church hopes to create eight units in their parking lot to provide housing for women—particularly transgender women, who  experience homelessness at a rate of 20 percent. Homeless shelters rarely have enough beds for everyone, and many are hesitant to go out of fear of theft or sexual assault. Individuals with illnesses such as scabies are often turned away from shelters as well.

The city has also cracked down on urban camping, barring people from using tents, blankets, sleeping bags, or other shelter when sleeping in public. A Camping Ban ticket costs $999, a price far too high for many homeless people. Often, they don’t show up for court, and next time they are stopped, they are sent to jail. Those that do show up are unable to afford the fine, which affects their credit, which further disenfranchises them and makes it more difficult to find housing. The additional transitional housing may help avoid these challenging circumstances.

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