California Plans To Combat Homelessness By Building ‘Tiny Home Villages’ As Part Of $12 Billion Plan

Photo: Lehrer Architects LA / Max Elram / Shutterstock
Gavin Newsom Homeless Tiny Homes California

Homelessness has long been an issue in California, with an estimated 170,000 homeless people on the street on any given night in the state.

Coming back from an attempted recall election, Governor Newsom is working relentlessly to help solve the problem — starting with signing into effect a $12 billion dollar California Comeback Plan that plans to help eliminate homelessness and build 42,000 houses over the next two years.

As a result, cities in California are starting to hop onto the trend themselves, increasing funding to combat the homelessness crisis in their communities.

Are tiny homes a solution for homelessness in California?

Cities like San Francisco and Sacramento are combating homelessness by building ‘tiny home villages’ for the homeless.

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The lots at 33 Gough St. in San Francisco have been used since December as a city-sanctioned “safe sleeping village,” containing 44 tents provide shelter to the the unhoused while they wait for more permanent housing.

These tents will be replaced before the end of the fall by tiny homes, paid for by the nonprofits DignityMoves and Tipping Point Community.

Each 64-square-foot tiny house will have a steel frame, 2-inch-thick walls, heat, a desk, a bed and a window.

The $1.7 million dollar project will also feature revamped bathrooms, storage spaces and a dining area, and will cost significantly less than building entirely new group shelters.

In San Francisco, group shelters typically cost more than $40,000 per bed to build, whereas the DignityMoves’ tiny houses cost $10,000 per unit.

Accordingly, the safe sleeping villages cost even more to maintain than the tiny houses and group shelters combined — costing $61,000 a year per tent.

Another large part of the problem with group shelters is that homeless people want a space of their own. 

In the small city of Goleta, 72% of homeless people were not willing to stay in a group shelter according to a survey conducted in March — citing the desire to have their own private living area as the major reason.

“I believe when you give someone that kind of dignity you can get with your own room and a locking door, you’re keying them up for more success,” says Elizabeth Funk, founder and head of DignityMoves.

“To come home to something that actually feels like a home would be so great,” said Benjamin Longmore, a member of the safe sleeping village.

“A door you can lock, some heat so you’re not cold at night — I would love that. I’m trying to really move on to the next step in my life, and I need all the help I can get.”

Sacramento recently approved 20 sites for homeless shelters, tiny homes, and camps that could house a total of 2,209 people at any given time.

These housing solutions are only short-term, temporary solutions that are a part of the bigger fight against homelessness.

Both San Francisco and Sacramento have outlined plans to increase spending on homeless housing projects as well as rehabilitation programs and counseling services to help the homeless get back on their feet.

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While this doesn’t solve the housing crisis or fix the homelessness problem, it’s a massive step in the right direction, especially when paired with Newsom’s plans to fight the issue.

Oakland, CA, has been using this method to combat homelessness since 2017, reporting a 60% turnover rate for those who lived in transitional tiny homes and moved to more permanent housing once stabilized.

The Newsom administration recently purported to spend $2.75 billion to renovate rundown buildings in order to house more homeless Californians.

The funding will also allow providers or building owners to provide additional support like counseling, mental health services and workforce development for its occupants.

The state’s housing initiative, Homekey, also saw an expansion as a result of the $12 billion dollar California Comeback Plan, adding 14,000 permanent, long-term housing units to the state.

"California is moving with unprecedented speed to house people experiencing homelessness, through Homekey," Newsom said in a statement.

"We are going all in on solutions that work,” he said, “tackling the homelessness crisis head-on with a constructive, compassionate approach and a focus on serving those with the most acute behavioral health needs.”

It’s going to take a lot more work in order to really make a dent in the housing/houseless crisis, but with these initiatives, there’s a newfound hope that California is on the right track.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice and politics.