Formerly homeless residents move into crowdfunded tiny home community as city monitors pilot project

Denver’s crowdfunded tiny home project has run into more than a few road blocks, but on July 21, fourteen residents moved into their new community and on Saturday they invited reporters in to see it.

Eleven 8-foot by 12-foot homes and a bathing house fill the Urban Land Conservancy-owned property at 38th and Walnut streets. There are also several tables covered by three white pop-up canopies, which are a temporary solution for the missing food-prep and living-room space.

Terese Howard from Denver Homeless Out Loud said the more permanent, cylindrical building should be there any day now, but was delayed because it needed additional permits.

Saturday, after a week of settling in, a conference was held to thank those who had made the completion of the project possible and also to show off the much-anticipated community.

“We didn’t build this village because we like cute tiny houses,” said Howard. “We built this here because we have an extreme housing crisis. Thousands and thousands who don’t have a place to call home.”

Each of tiny homes has a painted grey exterior, wooden steps, a small stoop and a white door. Inside is a single room with two windows and hardwood flooring.

Howard said to view the community as if it were a dispersed house and view each of the homes as bedrooms.

Colorado Village Collaborative is a community-based organization founded by DHOL, Beloved Community Mennonite Church and an aggregation of other organizations and volunteers.

For Amanda McDougald it was almost serendipity. She left drugs, homelessness and an abusive relationship in Killeen, Texas, four months ago to start over in Denver.

“It’s a huge blessing, I’m so grateful to have everything,” she said. “I was literally woken up Friday morning being kicked by cops because I was “trespassing” by sleeping somewhere that said no loitering. And that same evening I was moving into my own home. I have keys and a house and a bed, I’m so grateful.”

The village is not out of the woods yet, however. This is a 180-day pilot project to establish proof of concept. ULC granted a six-month lease of the property for $1 per month.

During that time, they will be scrutinized by the city to make sure that a safe and habitable environment has been established for the residents. After sixth months, the homes will hopefully be unbolted from their cinder blocks and placed permanently on soil.

“Our sixth month countdown began last Friday,” said Nathan Hunt, the Program Director for Economic Justice with Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. “We have a few different (permanent) locations in mind. From here we will figure out a location that works best for the residents for transportation and other factors.”

The lucky 14 were chosen based on risk and need. DHOL chose six out of 60 applicants through an interview process and then let those six chose the remaining residents.

“People who cannot or will not, for good reasons, stay in shelters,” said Hunt, describing the residents: “Trans people … the LGBTQ community in general, people who work odd hours  … people with anxiety and other disorders.”

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