Tiny homes one piece of homeless solution - Albuquerque Journal

Tiny homes one piece of homeless solution

When I and other concerned members of our community conceived of a tiny home village for Albuquerque, we envisioned a place where individuals experiencing homelessness would have the opportunity to gain stability, emotionally and financially, in a supportive, safe environment. Our commitment to this model is unchanged, even though the Tiny Homes Village will not be at its full capacity for some months. Given the growing number of homeless individuals in our community, we know the public wants to see quicker progress; however, THV is not a homeless shelter. Our criteria for accepting residents are much stricter than a shelter’s, because it is a transitional living community with an emphasis on community building requiring participation, cooperation and responsibility from every resident.

We were fortunate to find a location for the THV within the city limits, near a neighborhood and close to public transportation. Community members were supportive and accepting with the understanding the village would be a neighborhood-scaled, high-quality development, which is why we made every effort to create a place the residents and surrounding community could point to with pride. It is well-designed housing that will last for decades. We also made a commitment to carefully evaluate applicants to minimize any harmful risks to the neighborhood.

When the THV began accepting residents earlier this year, our resource manager had already been working with several individuals who had gone through a vetting process and were ready to move in. The village was scheduled to open in October of last year. Unfortunately, we had several delays in construction largely due to the pandemic and did not get a certificate of occupancy until February. During that time, eight applicants had been selected and vetted for residency but had moved on before the village could open. Since it opened, several selected applicants have failed their drug tests or decided against moving in for a number of reasons. Currently, the THV has six villagers. We are vigorously reviewing applications and will continue to process the ones we already have. But before we add more residents, we are filling the necessary gaps in support services and staff.

While immediate housing for our population experiencing homelessness is badly needed, it’s also important we address homelessness at its root causes, which include the emotional, behavioral and medical issues facing this population. Our goal is that the residents of the THV transition to independent living successfully.

The THV is a pilot project and an essential part of the “continuum of housing,” but it is one approach. The continuum also includes low-barrier shelters, safe outdoor spaces and ultimately permanently affordable housing. The first two are necessary for individuals and families seeking a safe place to stay the night, and they address an immediate need for health and safety. Beyond addressing our immediate crisis of homelessness, we need to aggressively tackle the lack of affordable housing so individuals in transitional housing have a place to live long term and more individuals and families don’t have to experience the trauma of facing homelessness.

The tiny home model for people experiencing homelessness is a proven, successful model around the country. We are committed to making the THV work as intended, and appreciate the community support and encouragement we have received.

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