What is a Tiny House Community?


By Max R. Weller


Tiny Houses by OM Build in Madison, WI: Nothing like it exists in Boulder, CO!

By now, everyone who cares about the subject of housing the hundreds of currently homeless people in Boulder County is aware that the 31-unit Housing First project at 1175 Lee Hill — right next door to Boulder Shelter for the Homeless and directly across the street from Boulder Housing Partners — is prohibitively expensive, costing well over $200,000 per unit up front with substantial ongoing annual costs for staffing the facility 24/7/365. Bridge Houses’s 4747 Table Mesa “Ready to Work” project is not much cheaper. Whether it’s Permanent Supportive Housing or Transitional Housing, respectively, only 79 men and women have been given a roof over their heads in these two hugely expensive ventures (over $10M combined); hundreds more of our own county’s residents are left on the streets . . . There has to be a better way to house homeless single adults than this! And a better way than the homeless people’s warehouse approach which robs them of both dignity and self-respect:


Men’s bedbug-infested emergency dorm at BSH.

Luckily, various organizations in truly progressive cities across America are showing us how to deal with housing homeless residents in a cost-effective way. Read Could America End Homelessness Quickly By Doing This? Excerpt follows:

With help from the community Occupy Madison has built nine tiny houses, a day resource center, laundry facilities and a community gardening space in the village. Each tiny house is 96 square feet and is made of recycled and reclaimed materials. They include a bed, a toilet, solar panels for electricity and propane heat. Each house costs around $5,000 to build; the money was raised with private donations.

While there are millions of vacant homes in the United States at this time, many believe simply using these homes for homeless people may not be a doable solution. Of course it could work and would probably be better than simply letting them sit, perhaps this solution could be another way to begin creating community amongst homeless people in a sustainable fashion. Not only that, programs to help educate people and end homelessness would also need to be run along side this type of solution.

“Rather than taking people form the streets and putting them in a building, we thought we could work together to create our own structures,” says Luca Clemente, with Occupy Madison for WKOW in Madison. “We don’t give houses to homeless people, we enable people to build their own houses to create their own futures.”

The village is located on a piece of commercial property and is paid for by private donations. The members of Occupy Madison won the approval from the city with assistance from many different local supporters. Much of the support came from other non-profits such as: Friends of the State Street Family, The Bubbles Program (which provides free laundry services), OM Build, Homeless Ministry at Bethel Lutheran Church and Madison Street Pulse.

Some of the Occupy Madison organizers have stated in regards to working with the system rather than against it: “Our approach to working within the system came only after we realized that without dotting every ‘i’, and crossing every ‘t’, the city and the county would never let us operate — they used every opportunity to enforce ordinances, regulations, and seemingly arbitrary whims against us. This paralleled precisely the persecution of everyday, unaffiliated, homeless individuals. When you are homeless, ‘the system’ is rife with obstacles designed to prevent creative innovation or adaptation– we at Occupy Madison experienced the same headaches.” Organizers also stated: “In many ways, we have had much more success since we changed our approach. This was due not only to how we communicated with city and county offices (we never shirked from being open or transparent), but how we are perceived by Madison’s genteel liberal population. It’s stunning how a flowerbed on a windowsill can be so much better for PR than the window itself, or the house it’s attached to.”

There are six other cities across America that are adopting tiny homes, while others are installing homeless spikes . . .

Boulder, CO prides itself on being smarter and more compassionate than other cities in America, but where is the evidence of either in regard to housing Boulder County’s own homeless people?

Tiny House Communities in other cities are exclusively for carefully screened homeless residents of those cities — NOT for the worst-behaved transients who happen to show up from all over the country! In addition, rent must be paid and assigned community service to maintain common areas must be done, and a strict code of behavior must be followed. Tiny House Communities are NOT like Housing First at 1175 Lee Hill in Boulder, which caters to chronically homeless alcoholics/drug addicts with a dual diagnosis of mental illness. Tiny House Communities have a positive track record in other cities — but the entrenched homeless shelter/services providers in Boulder, CO will NEVER stand for anything that takes away from their stranglehold on millions of $$$ spent annually (although Tiny Houses can be built for $5,000 apiece as in Madison, WI rather than $200,000 for a HF apartment here in Boulder). Local nonprofits which refuse to lead or follow should just get the hell out of the way!

What about the transients from Denver and elsewhere, who flock to Boulder to grab all of the Free Stuff given away by our shelter/services providers? For this group, the best option is to hand each one the $5 bus ticket on RTD back to Denver, along with a sack lunch and a bottle of water to-go.

BTW, I don’t judge the entire population of Boulder by the ignorant and hateful comments spewed forth on the Daily Camera website . . . I know that most folks here are better than that, which is why I go to the effort of trying to persuade them with this blog.


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