This idea has long been a no-brainer for me. And as it turns out, it's also true.
That's not just for Grants Pass, where we’ve lived for a year, but everywhere else, too.
Of course, the devil is in the details—and because of those specifics, goes beyond coming up with a place to sleep.
Yet for decades, this is how our country has mostly dealt with our chronically homeless population.
Often, this put-a-band-aid-on-it policy means that these underserved Americans (about 600,000 people on any given night) are afforded brief respites at warehouse-like facilities in neighborhoods where filth, poverty and crime rule. Some towns, like ours, have places in nicer neighborhoods where they’re called “rescue missions” and are faith based.
They do meet an immediate need—somewhere to lie down; a hot meal, and bathroom facilities. But at least here, there are ironclad rules: no pets, no guarantee about a room for the next night, and a requirement that everyone has to attend at least one religious service, and sometimes more, every day.
This isn’t a solution to homelessness.
But there’s a better way, and it will be here soon.
It’s called transitional housing.
These communities are neither new nor radical. They began popping up in the United States in the early 2000s, and now include Quixote Village in Olympia, Washington; Community First in Austin, Texas, and Second Wind Cottages in Newfield, New York. Most feature tiny modular homes, sometimes single or sometimes a duplex, usually with a front porch and big enough inside for a bed and bureau. A small amount of monthly rent is required; pets are generally allowed, and residents vary from a handful to a few hundred. Some allow children and some don’t. But everyone is carefully vetted before admittance.
These enclaves are also much more cost effective than letting the homeless wander the streets.
In fact, with increased time in hospitals, overnights in jail and emergency shelter, taxpayers fork out about $40,000
per year per homeless person. But with transition programs, lives are supported by offering homes that can cost as
little as $1,500.
Those who live here can also breathe a sigh of relief—gone are worries about safety; belongings being stolen, or where to find shelter on any given night.
But the real key to success is case management.
So, each enclave also has a brick-and-mortar community center, where social workers, mental health professionals and counselors connect residents to opportunities previously impossible, such as job training; applying for veteran and food benefits, and how to obtain a GED.
Additionally, each center has mailboxes; a kitchen and dining area, and bathroom facilities. Community gardens are also common, with sweat equity mandatory. Most residents take about six months to successfully transition to an off-site home and job, but no one is evicted if goals haven’t yet been met.
Now, a tiny home community for the homeless is coming to Grants Pass.
It’s named Foundry Village after the street where it’s located. And, despite the COVID-19 pandemic; a contentious election year, and raging fires in this part of the state, groundbreaking is slated to happen by the end of this year.
I’d heard about this project when we moved here last summer.
But the Village had been stalled by red tape and city leaders who believed this sort of housing was going to cause home values to plummet (they haven’t in other communities); excess littering around the area (hasn’t happened), and increased noise complaints to police (that hasn’t occurred either).
It took over a year, but once Foundry steering committee members presented accurate facts and figures to the powers blocking the idea, as well as offering tours of an established transitional community about 35 miles south, the project was green lighted.
This kind of housing won’t work for everyone.
But the overall success rate stands at 60 percent, and given that many residents have been previously homeless for years, those are pretty good odds.
The Hubster and I feel strongly that Foundry Village has a place here.
So, to the extent that we can, we’re volunteering time to make it a reality.
Masked, socially distanced and outside, we work at a booth a few hours every Saturday at our local Growers’ Market. There’s a one-gallon glass jar on the table for donations, but mostly, we offer information. That means answering questions; giving out pamphlets, and reassuring folks that Foundry Village will be A Very Good Thing for Grants Pass.
And perhaps surprisingly, except for one man early on, who grumbled that “at least now we’ll know where they all are,” we’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response.
For those who can’t pull themselves up by the bootstraps because they don’t have boots, we hope to give them the
shoes they’ll need.
Find out more about Foundry Village at www.foundryvillagegrantspass.com/.