Comassion in Action

It Takes a Tiny Village

ruins, aztec national monument,

When you don’t have a home to go back to, and no place to go in the future, where do you find safety and security?

Safety and security are fundamental needs for us. Without them, the world is difficult to navigate. In fact, many homeless people develop mental health needs, but they can make a real turn around just by having a safe place of their own, no matter what size. I’ve blogged about this in the past because it’s an issue in front of me daily. I work downtown in a city large enough to have a sizeable homeless population. I sometimes give cash, but although it’s helpful in the short-term, it isn’t a long-term solution.

I was excited to hear that there are some groups approaching this issue with compassion and sensibility. Using crowd-sourcing, the Alternative Solutions Advocacy Project is spearheading a 180-day pilot project. They will build a village of 11 tiny homes for individuals and couples called the Beloved Community Village. The project includes a common space for food preparation and gatherings as well as a place for restrooms and showers. There is more information at an article in a WestWord magazine. article. You can also get more information on the village’s website.

chimney, homeless

homeless

Why tiny homes? Denver has numerous permanent and temporary shelters (when the weather is dangerously cold), so why a village of little houses? I’ve known people “between homes” who have told me how difficult the shelters are. What little they own gets stolen; the rules are rigid and uncomfortable. The most difficult to navigate are the personal conflicts and confrontations between the residents; many find that it intolerable. Many residents are veterans, and the conflicts can be dangerous when you consider that the participants have all been trained in hand-to-hand combat. For potential residents with PTSD, the potential to get triggered is very real. The website for Beloved Community Village provides even more reasons that some people don’t fit the current system, but a tiny home will be perfect (people with service animals, disabilities, etc.). (https://www.gofundme.com/denvers-first-tiny-home-village)

mountain lion, cage, cougar

The cage keeps this mountain lion safe, but he sacrifices precious freedom. I suspect he’d rather take his chances on the streets. Shelters aren’t the answer.

Other cities have tried tiny houses with good results. With a safe, secure place to sleep and an address to put on job applications, things can really change. After all, it’s hard to get a job when your address is a homeless shelter. A home, no matter how small, can salvage dignity, self-respect, and hope.

I’ve been excited to see similar efforts in other cities and thrilled for a practical solution in Denver, Colorado. Churches are leading the way, with city approval. Why not try some innovative solutions that have fared well in other cities? if you want to support their efforts, you can donate to their crowdfunding campaign.

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7 replies »

  1. You have real understanding of this homeless issue. Points you made that were important: the mental/physical disability issues. So often it is the mental health issue that causes the homelessness. More often than not, it is the cause of the homelessness. Important thought here is that a person doesn’t have to and shouldn’t stay mentally unhealthy forever. Many mental health issues can improve but some kind of stability is a major factor. A tiny home of safety can be a tremendous medication because it provides some structure and safety.
    Your other important point is the problem of finding employment if your address is a shelter. I recently talked to a homeless couple looking for work. He was a veteran. We have a veteran shelter here but he couldn’t stay there because he had a wife and women, even wives, were not allowed to stay there. He said the moment he put the Salvation Army down as a contact place on a job application, the application became trash. It would not even be considered. So, where does a homeless person start? Few of them actually want to be homeless. Homelessness is a complex issue for which there is no one answer but the tiny village effort would seem a good approach to helping a significant segment of the problem.
    It may take some time to work through the administration of such a program to make it a strong and helpful program. Structuring such a service could be a challenge.
    Your publishing the news on your blog is a good contribution to their effort. Keep up the good work.

    Like

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