Denver, CO

Denver tiny home village moving, expanding at new site

David Heitz

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City and County of Denver

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) Denver's Beloved Community Village of tiny homes soon will move from the Globeville neighborhood to city-owned property at 4201 Monroe St.

The Finance and Governance Committee approved a lease Tuesday with Colorado Village Collaborative to rent the space for $10 per year. The lease runs through the end of 2023. The city agreed to pay the Collaborative more than $1 million to operate the site through the end of 2023.

The site includes 24 tiny homes, an increase of five over the Globeville village at 4400 N. Pearl. The Collaborative will erect a common hall and provide showers, internet, a communal kitchen, and laundry. Mental health services, help finding a job and case management also will be available.

Denver requires the Collaborative to forge good neighbor agreements with the community. The contract will include street outreach to people living in RVs.

The lease contains a provision for the Collaborative to expand beyond 24 tiny homes onto an adjoining parcel owned by the city. Eleven households will move from Globeville to the new location. People found through street outreach will occupy the other tiny homes.

Warehouse shelters unpopular

Residents of the tiny homes must be at 30 percent of Denver's average median income. That comes to about $22,100 per year. Tiny home residents live rent-free, and there is no time limit for how long they can stay. The Collaborative grants six-month leases.

Tiny homes don't have plumbing. But unlike the legal tent villages, also known as safe outdoor spaces, tiny houses have a roof and a door.

Denver has tried to diversity its shelter options for people experiencing homelessness. Many dislike congregant shelters because they don't allow pets, couples can't stay together, and there's no privacy.

But tiny homes and safe outdoor spaces provide privacy. Studies have shown that people who stay in non-congregant shelters get out of homelessness faster, HOST assistant director Angie Nelson told the council. "A tiny home looks and feels a lot more like a house."

The city is considering installing cubicle-like dividers in its warehouse shelters. It also plans to add dog kennels so pets could be allowed.

Employment high at tiny home village

City Council member Robin Kniech said everyone staying at the tiny home village for the past nine months either has employment, a disability, or is attending school. A representative of the Collaborative said the key to their success is meeting people where they're at and helping them set goals. Examples of goals include reducing substance use, stabilizing their mental health, or getting a job.

Tiny homes enjoy higher success rates for getting people into permanent housing. Of 67 people served by the tiny home village since 2017, 31 now have keys to their own homes, and almost 50 have jobs. More than 40 have received mental health treatment. "This program reaches the benchmark and then blows it out of the water," Nelson said.

City Council member Debbie Ortega said she wants to make sure people from Denver experiencing homelessness receive assistance before out-of-towners. She also said the Collaborative must create a community advisory group.

Permanent sites needed

Some council members said the city needs to find permanent sites for tiny home villages. "If we're serious about this model we have got to get past these temporary sites," Kniech said. "It's not rational to have to keep looking for sites."

She envisions 10 or 20 tiny home villages throughout the city. Kniech said the city recently changed the zoning code to allow for the villages. "We should be willing to use it."

Nelson said when land becomes available, it's used instead for apartments, which developers can build at a much higher density than tiny homes. She said developers choose to build 100 apartments rather than 24 tiny homes.

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best local newspapers in the country. Today, I report on Denver City Hall, homelessness and other topics for NewsBreak, much like I did in my twenties covering Newport Beach, Calif. for the Daily Pilot. I consider myself a lucky guy to still be doing what I love after so many years.

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