Tiny houses for the homeless? WBTV asks LA nonprofit if unique concept could work in Charlotte

Could Tiny Houses for homeless concept work in Charlotte?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A California nonprofit recently opened a community full of tiny homes designed to temporarily house some of Los Angeles’ homeless residents.

Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission opened the first community in North Hollywood earlier this month. The community is comprised of 39 tiny homes and has 85 beds.

According to the nonprofit, each unit is 64 sq. ft. and comes with heat, air-conditioning, windows, a small desk and a front door. The community allows for homeless people to shower, do laundry and get three meals a day all at no cost.

Rowan Vansleve, the nonprofit’s chief administrative and financial officer, said the first residents for the tiny home community were selected by outreach coordinators from Hope of the Valley.

There is no time limit as to how long residents are allowed to live in the community, but the housing is expected to be temporary.

Vansleve said staff members from Hope of the Valley will assist homeless residents in getting back on their feet and getting into permanent supported housing.

Vansleve spoke to WBTV in a Zoom interview Monday afternoon explaining that the new community has been well-received.

“One thing I love about the tiny homes is the dignity that it gives, and it’s not just for the residents. One of the things we’ve realized is the community has really responded and they love it. It looks great. It feels like a part of a modern community and it isn’t an eyesore where they say, ‘Hey there’s a homeless shelter down the street’.”

Vansleve said each of the tiny homes cost about $6,000 to build. He said the City of Los Angeles covered the cost of constructing the community and Hope of the Valley maintains it. He said the nonprofit is constantly fundraising to help pay for operating costs that are not covered by the city.

“We couldn’t do the work we do without the City of Los Angeles,” said Vansleve. “If the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti (and) councilman Paul Krekorian didn’t stand up and make this their issue, we wouldn’t be seeing the change we’re seeing.”

Vansleve said he thinks the tiny home community concept could work for other American cities too.

“I think the tiny home solution is a great solution for cities all over America and the world. I think they’re incredibly quick to pop-up and they allow dignity, especially for the elderly residents,” explained Vansleve.

The concept has been discussed in Charlotte. Mark Middlesworth, president of North End Partners, the North Tryon corridor’s nonprofit advocacy organization, proposed the idea as a solution for homelessness. He spoke to WBTV about the concept in a Zoom interview earlier this month.

“This would be a transitional place that is well-groomed. You got all the facilities that you need there in one location. It’s safe. It’s fenced in.” said Middlesworth.

While he supports the idea, Middlesworth noted that Charlotte is in need of someone from the city to spearhead the project.

“The problem with the city is that there’s no point person to take this and run with it and it’s like everybody wants it to be somebody else’s job. Good ideas are only as good as the people that try to make them happen,” said Middlesworth.

Vansleve said Hope of the Valley is currently working to open three more tiny home communities in the Los Angeles area.

He said another community is set to open in April and will house more than 100 units.

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