By definition, chronically homeless individuals have been living in a hazardous condition for at least a year. That type of life is hard to imagine and varies greatly.
To experience even one night of sleeping on the ground is enough for many people to wish for a comfortable lifestyle. Community Action Partnership of Greater St. Joseph empathizes with that type of situation, and the organization is developing a plan to house homeless individuals in an area on the southeast side of town, outside
St. Joseph’s city limits.
The open field already is zoned for housing and CAP is moving forward with bringing its “Tiny Homes” dream to reality, said Rachael Bittiker, public affairs and community development director.
“It’s going to help serve adults, chronically homeless men and women in the community,” Bittiker said. “Currently we’re like in phase one, which is basically signing the lease getting the (memorandum of understanding) done and then really starting to plan and development, what this ground is going to look like.”
The goal is to have the area, which already is surrounded by a rich amount of trees, fenced with a parking lot and community center for things like laundry and meeting with a community health worker.
“The tiny house is exactly what it sounds like. It’s just a small version of a one-bedroom apartment. They’re allowed to do anything that you would be able to do in your own home,” Bittiker said. “They’ve got a bedroom, they’ve got a kitchen, they have a small living room, a place they can do their dishes and things like that.”
The resident’s case worker will help build up mental health and also address possible food insecurities.
There will be no time limit on how long individuals stay, and CAP will ultimately act as the landlord of the tiny home development. The organization plans to begin by building six homes in the coming year. Each will cost between $5,000 to $8,000 to build.
One of the reasons why CAP officials believe getting homeless individuals into homes is a good idea is because of the expense these susceptible individuals can have on area resources.
Specifically, Bittiker cited research that said each homeless individual can cost up to $40,000 per year in expenses, such as emergency medical treatment.
“We’re looking at a $200,000 saving for resources in the St. Joseph area (with six tiny homes),” Bittiker said.
At this time, CAP is waiting for the appropriate permits to come back before construction begins.
“We do plan on having like a residential assistant, like an RA, on site that’s going to help make sure that everything is (good),” Bittiker said.