Homeless housing in a hurry
Compassion | Companies get creative to meet demand for shelter
by Charissa Koh
Posted 3/24/21, 02:41 pm
For 20,000 spots on Los Angeles’ Section 8 voucher waiting list in 2018, about 188,000 people applied. Only 1 in 30 low-income applicants actually score a voucher to help cover the cost of rent, and out of those, only about half actually sign a lease within the required six months because most landlords refuse to accept vouchers.
While solving homelessness is about much more than finding enough homes—relationships, spiritual and mental health, and stable employment are all key, as well—Los Angeles’ Section 8 predicament illustrates how a lack of affordable housing make it even harder to tackle the problem.
Creative home construction ideas that save time and money could be an important part of the solution. Tiny house villages for the homeless are springing up around the country. At one of the largest, most successful models, the Community First! Village in Austin, Texas, chronically homeless people can apply to live in a tiny house permanently as long as they pay the cheap rent and follow the community rules. Last year, phase two of the village opened, including six 3D printed tiny houses built through a partnership with technology company Icon. The formerly homeless residents at Community First are the first people in the United States to live in 3D printed homes. When complete, phase two will have 310 homes; currently it has 120 homes and 50 residents.
In California, a company called Connect Homes is building 320-square-foot units that can include up to four small bedrooms, a kitchen and bath, or some combination of both. Each unit resembles a shipping container and is easy to transport by truck. Using an assembly line and scaled construction materials keeps the costs low: Each bedroom costs $20,000 to build, as opposed to the $50,000 it takes to create a unit of traditional supportive housing. A nonprofit called LifeMoves near San Francisco used a grant from California’s Project Homekey to purchase 88 bedrooms from Connect Homes for a supportive housing shelter. All the modular units are installed, and LifeMoves plans to open the shelter to residents in late April.
And in Los Angeles, an organization called FlyawayHomes is preparing to open an apartment building made from shipping containers stacked on top of each other. After only one year of construction, 32 formerly homeless people will be able to move into modular homes, where they will also receive supportive services.
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Charissa is a WORLD reporter who often writes about poverty fighting and prison reform, including profiling ministries in the annual Hope Awards for Effective Compassion competition. She is also a part of WORLD's investigative unit, the Caleb Team. Charissa resides with her husband, Josh, in Austin, Texas. Follow her on Twitter @CharissaKoh.