Having been interested in tiny Container Houses for a while now, I continue to be pleasantly surprised by new developments in the movement. One of the more recent developments in the many uses for tiny houses is making permanent housing the first, most crucial part of a comprehensive strategy to help counteract homelessness. Home ownership is a significant step forward for most members of the homeless community. It is perhaps the most important factor involved in restoring a sense of dignity for a homeless individual.
As Kelly Schwend, Maureen Cluskey, and Michael Cordell point out in their 2015 SAGE Open study, “Lifestyles and Goals of Homeless Male Shelter Users,” structured, goal-oriented programming is essential “To move individuals from poverty, addiction, chronic disease, and homelessness to self-sufficiency and reintegration into society.” In other words, a permanent home alone is not enough. Individuals also need a built-in support system and goals to work toward. Therefore, the addition of a network of career mentors, coaches, and teachers, for example, helps immensely.
Seeing homelessness as something that can be solved with the help of homeless shelters alone is a naïve and limited perspective that doesn’t take all factors into account. Schwend and Cluskey, both health educators at Bradley University, understand the importance of taking into account the whole individual, rather than just the part. The SAGE Open study cited above also notes the following: “Services for the homeless population must provide interdisciplinary interventions including supportive housing, which facilitates social reintegration, assistance with obtaining employment or vocational training, and the provision of comprehensive health care services.” Any successful effort to reduce chronic homelessness in a given population requires this type of multi-pronged approach.
The burgeoning tiny Sentry Box and community-centered movement in homeless populations is proof of this. There are a number of tiny house enclaves springing up around the United States that address this need for a comprehensive approach. One such tiny house community that is doing this is Mobile Loaves & Fishes’ Community First! Village, located in Austin, Texas. This community-based project incorporates flexible housing with a community garden, mental health support services, and access to Wi-Fi, kitchens, nature trails, etc. A more comprehensive approach like this one takes the complicated nature of re-entry into society into account, which dramatically increases the chances of eventual self-sufficiency.