For those advocating for an end to homelessness now, a change is in the air reminiscent of days of yore.
A tiny house village in Northern California designed by McCamant and Durrett Architects of Nevada City began construction in July. The Village consists of 70 units—22 for homeless veteran seniors, 17 for otherwise homeless seniors, and 31 for seniors at risk of being homeless or previously homeless. After the buildings are built, McCamant & Durrett Architects and SAHA will work with residents on programming to enhance community interaction. Residents will learn to listen to one another, make community-based decisions, and to work together as a team to ensure that everyone’s needs are met.
In the early part of the 20th century, John Steinbeck described non-fictional accounts of a housing crisis during the depression. With help from the government, numerous villages were built in California, from Redding to San Diego in California. This initiative put a roof over the heads of thousands of people displaced by something they could not control. The effects went far beyond surviving: having a home and community enabled people get their feet back on the ground. These villages restored people's faith in a functional, viable society, and then went on to contribute themselves.
The average homeless person dies at 49 in this country, a thirty-year curtailment of life, so in Northern California we are getting to many of these people just in time. This project may be one of the first, but it certainly isn’t the last and, once it is finished and the residents move in, we all will see the potential this model has. One such area that needs this type of housing badly is Nevada County.
If the County were to simply lease a property to the citizens (who are already prepared to build it,) a village like those described by John Steinbeck, could dramatically shift life as we know it. The plans have been drawn up and there is no shortage of citizen support. The last key, the key to a change for the better, lies in the hands of the County. With their full support, endemic homelessness will be a thing of the past as those who are without are welcomed into community, into a home.
In fact, these dwellings would save millions of dollars a year for the County, not to mention lives. If the County just let their “Darwinian” or “American Dream” (pull yourself up by your bootstraps) ideologies soften and listen to what people who actually listen to the stories (volunteers for Hospitality House, for example) we’d be in a much better place. Homelessness is not a disease, and it often effects those who need the most support (i.e. mentally challenged and those working paycheck to paycheck.) Once these folks belong to a functioning community, when their basic needs are met, they will become an enhancement to society and a model for those who are advocating for the wellbeing of all, everywhere.