Controversy Surrounds Strategy to Address Homelessness in Cities: “Hiding Them in Tiny, Taxpayer-Funded Boxes Won’t Fix a Thing”

Many cities in California and the Western U.S. are using tiny home villages to combat homelessness.

Homes for the Homeless

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In an ongoing effort to address the issue of homelessness, many cities across California and the Western United States are turning to tiny home villages as a practical solution.

These tiny homes, each around 100 square feet in size, offer shelter and a connection to essential resources like electricity. California Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced plans to erect 1,200 tiny homes in Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego. 

Half a Million With Nowhere to Stay

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The initiative aims to provide rapid housing for those experiencing homelessness, a challenge exacerbated by rising evictions and soaring rents in bustling markets, with over 580,000 Americans living without adequate shelter and a significant portion of those residing in California. 

Housing Solutions Present Challenges

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In Los Angeles, Mayor Karen Bass has been actively pushing for housing solutions, leading to hundreds of residents transitioning from the streets to tiny homes in recent months.

However, this transition isn’t without its challenges, as some individuals feel coerced to give up their belongings, including tents, before being assigned to a tiny home. 

A Price to Pay

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Furthermore, some are required to share their tiny homes with random roommates, and couples are sometimes separated in the process. Despite these concerns, Governor Newsom’s plan to build 1,200 tiny homes across the state is a vital component of California’s broader strategy to combat homelessness. 

More Houses, More Tiny Homes

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These tiny homes offer an efficient and cost-effective means of sheltering a large number of people quickly. Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg emphasizes the importance of producing housing more rapidly and economically to address the crisis.

He mentions that the first tiny home village in Sacramento, which includes 100 structures, opened as part of the Safe Stay program in August. 

Transitional Rehabilitation

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The new tiny home sites are intended as transitional housing, where residents can access mental health and substance use services, as well as vocational rehabilitation, to help them regain stability.

Each tiny home features a one-bedroom layout with a full kitchen, bathroom, and laundry facilities, allowing residents to customize the interiors to their liking.

No Timetable From Transit Authority

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In San Jose, plans are underway for 200 tiny homes on a 7.2-acre lot owned by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Nevertheless, specific timelines for building the tiny homes in Los Angeles and San Diego have yet to be announced. 

Inside Safe

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Tiny home villages have been in operation in Los Angeles for over two years, with the county opening its first village in North Hollywood in early 2021. In 2023, construction efforts in Los Angeles increased significantly as part of Mayor Karen Bass’ Inside Safe program, which aims to provide housing for 17,000 unhoused individuals by December. 

Criminalize or Curfew?

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Despite criticisms from some who believe that the tiny home approach makes it easier to criminalize homeless individuals, supporters argue that it is a better alternative to leaving people on the streets.

Curfews and special enforcement zones around tiny home neighborhoods can create a carceral atmosphere, but many people consider housing people in tiny homes to be better than the uncertainty and instability of living on the streets. 

One Thousand off the Streets

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In Denver, Mayor Mike Johnston initiated a plan to house 1,000 homeless people by the end of 2023. This led to the groundbreaking of a site for 120 tiny homes, with each home ranging in size from 70 to 120 square feet. 

From Border Walls to Four Walls

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In Tucson, Arizona, a faith-based nonprofit is repurposing shipping containers from Governor Doug Ducey’s makeshift border wall to create tiny homes.

These homes are specifically intended for young people aging out of foster care, who often face homelessness as they transition out of the child protective services system. 

Community First

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Austin’s Community First Village, which opened in 2015, serves as a model for tiny home projects, housing formerly homeless individuals.

In 2023, Travis County approved a $35 million contract with the nonprofit Mobile Loaves and Fishes to develop nearly 500 tiny homes and other shelter options, reflecting a commitment to expanding the tiny home initiative in the state capital. 

End of Homeless Crisis?

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These tiny home villages, although not without their challenges, represent a pragmatic approach to addressing the pressing issue of homelessness.

By providing rapid shelter and access to critical services, they offer hope to those in need and contribute to a broader effort to combat homelessness in California and beyond.

There’s No Pleasing Everyone

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Online supporters and detractors have been both vocal and blunt in their arguments.

One commentator stated “Of course, ignore the real problem and spend more money on fuel for the fire.”

Another commented “Past experiences show these areas will be trash filled dumps within three months”

Helping or Hiding?

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Others took a different view. One apparent supporter online posted “Hiding them in tiny, taxpayer funded boxes, won’t fix a thing.”

Another criticized the detractors, stating “You are the same people who say we should take care of our own first, help the homeless and help the Vets. Now look at all the angry people when we do.”

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