Tiny Homes for the Homeless are Targeted for Removal

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(Newswire.net — September 2, 2016) —  The tiny home movement is popular with millennials and retirees, proving itself to be a compelling alternative to renting for those on a restricted budget, but recent college grads and older Americans aren’t the only people living in tiny homes today. In some cities, tiny homes are also in the news as a potential source of housing for the homeless, with numbers suggesting it’s financially more sustainable to build communities of tiny homes than to provide services to those dealing with chronic housing instability, especially by repurposing old RVs or buying regionally-based shipping containers that are no longer in active use.

As quickly as this solution appeared, however, opponents of the effort have come forward to suggest that these homes are a safety hazard and potentially illegal. Is this really the case, or is this further evidence of the prominence of bootstrap ideology – the belief that individuals need to work hard and solve such problems through persistence and drive?

Much like cities that make feeding the homeless illegal, efforts to remove tiny homes have created tensions between activists seeking to aid those in need and those opposed to such services. A deeper look at cities confronting such conflicts offers insights into the ongoing struggle to solve homelessness.

 From Nashville To L.A.: Communities In Action

Tiny homes have appeared as a solution to homelessness in cities across the country, primarily fueled by innovative individuals determined to help their communities. In Nashville, for example, Pastor Jeff Obafemi Carr built six tiny homes with the money saved by moving his own family of five into a tool shed sized structure.

Not currently connected to the grid, the homes offer a temporary solution for those who otherwise lived in tents while waiting for housing vouchers. As such, the structures are stepping stones – not so much a solution as a stopover on the way to greater independence and housing security. The city offers some support for the program, but the funding comes from faith-based organizations.

Similarly, in Austin, another Christian organization, Mobile Loaves & Fishes, has been moving homeless individuals into renovated RVs and other tiny home alternatives since 2005. By next year, they expect to be operating at full capacity in the Community First! village, with 200 people living on site.

Like the site in Nashville, the structures at Community First! are largely just bedrooms, with other facilities such as bathrooms and laundry rooms are shared by those living there.

Health And Safety Concerns

A few things become clear when you look into the current use of tiny houses as a response to chronic homelessness, but perhaps the most striking thing is the fact that these homes are rarely connected to the power grid and typically lack indoor plumbing. Many residents use small battery powered appliances and community resources make up the rest, with shared bathrooms, but the setup strikes many as unsustainable.

Those opposed to the tiny homes, however, rarely raise health issues as their main concern. Instead, as evidenced in L.A. where the city seized tiny homes in February, the primary objections targeted community safety. Area residents complained about drug activity and weapons leading up to removal. The structures, which were placed near the freeway so they wouldn’t block homes or business, would have to go.

Still, the fight to place homeless residents in tiny homes isn’t over, and many are looking to the private models used in Nashville and Austin as examples. In the ongoing struggle to end homelessness, communities will need to overcome stereotypes that tie impoverished individuals to crime and violence in order to reach a sustainable solution.