Earlier this year, HUD Secretary Ben Carson announced an award of $2 billion in support of thousands of local housing and service programs across the U.S. This year’s installment of the annual HUD Continuum of Care grants will assist more than 7,300 local programs working to house and serve individuals and families experiencing homelessness in their communities. But even as communities around the nation struggle to figure out how to tackle the difficult problem of homelessness, one trend has been grabbing headlines by thinking small. Could tiny houses be just the thing to help the homeless get back on their feet?
Several American communities are experimenting with “tiny home” programs to help relieve homelessness. As reported by CNN, the nonprofit Veterans Community Project (VCP) is working with Kansas City leadership to create a small community of tiny homes designed specifically to get homeless veterans off the streets. The Veterans Community Project has so far built 13 tiny homes, working to provide alternatives to the often-overcrowded local shelters that were leaving some veterans without a place to sleep at night. The tiny homes are fully up to code homes that are less than 300 square feet—designed as transitional housing for veterans on the way to more permanent homes.
VCP co-founder Brandon Mixon told CNN, "We're pulling these guys out of the trenches in their battle and saving their lives because they would have done the exact same for us. They could have been that guy that saved my life in Afghanistan or pulled me to safety."
San Jose, California, is also experimenting with a “tiny homes” program for the homeless—or trying to, at least. The city’s housing department has recently been holding meetings to discuss moving forward on a tiny-homes community consisting of around “40 prefabricated sleeping units” for homeless residents who qualify for assistance but have not yet found a permanent place to live.
Addressing local residents’ safety concerns about the proposed tiny-homes community, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said, “We’ve got to get beyond the notion that it’s somebody else’s problem because the reality is the homeless are in all of our neighborhoods and they’re living with us. They’re part of our community. The only question is whether they’re going to house them.”
Similar “tiny-homes for the homeless” projects are unfolding in communities around the country, including The Block Project in Seattle, Washington.
The National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty says that more than 3.5 million people are homeless or under-sheltered each year in America, a total which includes as many as 1.35 million children. Moreover, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, U.S. communities would need as many as 7 million more affordable living spaces to meet current homeless and low-income needs. Tiny homes won’t totally solve the problem, but it could be one more effective tool in the fight to relieve homelessness in America.