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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Sacramento considers building tiny-house village for homeless

Sacramento Councilman Allen Warren proposes building overnight shelter for about 700 of city’s homeless

Sacramento’s worsening homelessness crisis has prompted City Councilman Allen Warren to tentatively propose a tiny-house village for the city’s homeless population. The settlement would be named “Renewal Village” and would house homeless and low-income renters. 

As of 2017, roughly 3,700 homeless people live in Sacramento, 56% of whom are sleeping outdoors, according to data collected by Sacramento County.

In the state of California, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness found that nearly 130,000 people experienced homelessness each day in 2018. Much of this can be attributed to the rising cost of living. 

Warren expects the Renewal Village project to cost anywhere from $20-25 million, paid for by Sacramento, the state, philanthropists, the federal government and the affordable housing aspect of the project.

Renewal Village would be located on eight acres of land and would house 700 people at a time in roughly 200 tents and 500 tiny houses. Most of the housing would be for the homeless, but it would have some low-income paid housing as well. 

On top of the tents and tiny houses, Renewal Village would feature a health clinic, dining commons, garden, playground and dog park. 

“The idea is really homelessness to self-sufficiency,” Warren said. “I expect [Renewal Village] to give them a safe place to live and regain their lives.”

Seattle, Washington has already started a number of tiny-house villages for the homeless. Sharon Lee, the executive director for the Low Income Housing Institute in Seattle, gave details about the project. 

There are currently nine tiny-house villages in Seattle, serving about 1,000 homeless individuals a year in total. Individual homeless people stay for anywhere from a few weeks to six months. 

Each tiny-house costs about $2,500 and has electric wiring, heating, opening windows and locking doors. The villages also have communal dining and laundry rooms as well as kitchens. 

Similarly to Warren’s idea of eventual self-sufficiency, Lee stated that the eventual goal is to get people “housing ready.” This quarter, Lee said that 40% of the villages’ residents moved into permanent housing, 24% into transitional housing and 14% into other shelters — only 2% ended up back on the streets. 

So far, Warren said the reaction to the Renewal Village has been overwhelmingly positive. Community meetings concerning the project, however, will not start until December, when more of the public will be expected to give input.  

In Seattle, residents living in neighborhoods surrounding the villages have been supportive, according to Lee. The homeless became integrated as a part of the community, and police officers often state that neighborhoods with villages experience lower crime rates.

“So many people are frustrated by how much homelessness exists, and they feel powerless — they can’t do anything,” Lee said. “And now, when they have a village in their community, they’re able to come and help contribute.”

Lonni McMurtie, a woman in Seattle who became homeless after a work accident almost four years ago, is currently living in one of Seattle’s tiny-house villages. She has lived in a women’s-only village, Whittier Heights, since April. McMurtie spoke about how living in the village has impacted her life. 

“This is like a dream come true,” McMurtie said. “Basically, they nurse you back to health — they nurse you back to life.”  

McMurtie frequently attends fundraisers and Seattle City Council meetings to advocate for the construction of more tiny-house villages for the homeless. To better share how her tiny house has changed her life, she wrote an original poem about her experience. 

“My bare white door, became so much more,” McMurtie said, reading an excerpt from her poem. “Now back to life, back to salvation; no longer walking streets with shame and humiliation.”

Written by: Eden Winniford –– city@theaggie.org


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