The second year Obama held office, his “Opening Doors” programby 2015. It didn’t happen. As of last year, HUD estimated almost forty thousand veterans in America did not have permanent shelter including more than one thousand in Arizona.
One advocate is actually doing something about the problem and doing it right. Build Us H.O.P.E. will serve as a terrific model for pointing the way to a totally workable solution. One that will not only help our struggling heroes but many others who desperately need low cost, secure, and dependable shelter. “The Village on 13th” is a pilot project to showcase the bold new concept.
Three 270-400 square foot. “Micro homes” are being built on an 8,000 square foot lot in central Phoenix. The homes’ smaller footprint makes for “a more intimate community” which helps the residents find support. Because this is a demonstration project, meant to serve as an example for other groups to expand further, only vets are allowed to apply for units in this particular community. The plan is to start with three models to exhibit solar and other “sustainable systems” put together through a partnership with GreenLight Solutions. Community Gardens, edible landscape, and solar power are just the beginning. Other projects will build 24 more units which will be open to more applicants.
A group of ASU engineering students, in the community service program EPICS, worked hard to design the community’s features to incorporate solar power and gray-water recycling. Each unit will have an eat-in kitchen, full bath with stand-up shower, and a patio. Appliances such as microwave, stove, refrigerator, and ceiling fans are included. The units come fully furnished with everything needed to get started, even a security system. The property will be fenced for even more security.
The BUH philosophy is that “individuals should have access to a decent, safe, clean, and affordable place of their choice when it comes to housing.” The community’s veterans will have transportation, a support community, and social services to reduce the loneliness and isolation which is common. Both on and off-site case management will be provided along with job assistance and support groups to help our vets live independently.
Two other similar communities are already underway. Micro on Madison, which will be another two unit “teaching site” test project, and The Village on 35th which calls for 22 individual units on a 1.2 acre lot that would have onsite laundry and amenities for the community like hiking trails, meditation areas, and a community garden.
Once the project is fully operational, it will offer services to other vulnerable communities including the seriously mentally ill and others who are chronically homeless. Those with chemical hypersensitivity (MCS/Environmental Illness) face overwhelming housing challenges that can be met through the BUH approach, particularly because of the sustainability concepts incorporated into the design.
Plans for the larger community are based on a “pocket neighborhood” design where all the homes face a community garden/gathering area. A resource center with offices for counseling and private meetings, community computers, and laundry facilities will be included. Each home has a side and back yard along with a front patio. Four of the homes will be designed for ADA residents.
Community support services offered will include access to a fully staffed clinic and mobile medical unit, counseling, legal aid, pet care, career and peer counseling, and educational classes for things like personal finance and health management. There are also plans for access to clothing and a food pantry. Needs assessments will be ongoing and as issues are identified, partner service providers will be explored.
Build us H.O.P.E was started by Elizabeth Singleton who is committed to helping those with mental illness and other disabilities. On the boards of the Cross Disability Citizens Advisory Panel that works with Phoenix police and the Alliance for Crisis Management and Safety, Elizabeth is also Communications Director for the Maricopa Alliance for Shelter and Housing. Singleton vows to help not just the social economy, but the public economy.
Micro-home villages such as these are an exciting idea to get affordable housing to those who need it along with the support and respect they deserve.
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