Local advocates for the homeless have big hopes for tiny homes

A view of a tiny home, made from a shipping container, at Veterans Village 2 near downtown Las Vegas Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018.

Although the size and style of a tiny home might not suit every homeowner's taste, the small dwellings can be a luxury to those who have little to nothing.

With an average size of a few hundred square feet, tiny homes could offer a major piece to solving the puzzle that is the valley’s homeless problem.

There are nearly 6,500 homeless people in Clark County, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2017 annual Homeless Assessment Report. Sixty-seven percent of the county's homeless population is considered unsheltered, one of the highest rates in the country.

Homes only a few hundred square feet in size can be enough to provide shelter for those without it. With kitchens, living areas, bedrooms and shower spaces, the dwellings offer the basic features found in larger residences.

“It might be small, but it’s a home,” said Arnold Stalk, co-founder of Veterans Village.

Veterans Village, located downtown, is exploring the feasibility of tiny homes for those in need with a 320-square-foot home model displayed on the organization's grounds. The structure is built inside recycled metal shipping container and features climate control, full plumbing and utilities, skylights and a sliding glass door.

A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Monday to announce the addition of 11 more structures on site.

Tiny Homes at Veterans Village

An artist's illustration shows a tiny home community proposed for Veterans Village 2 near downtown Las Vegas Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018. The initial project will have 11 homes. Launch slideshow »

The initial homes are a precursor to a planned a 100-plus home village in Southern Nevada, Stalk said. In addition to the 320-square-foot model, a smaller 160-square-foot version will be included in the village. The smaller home still features all the amenities of the larger one, just on a scaled-down version.

The 320-square-foot models cost $37,000, not including land and utilities, and the 160-square-foot model runs $25,000, Stalk said.

There are 204 veterans housed on the Veterans Village site already in an apartment complex, and Stalk said interest to occupy the tiny homes was already building. Once the dwellings are ready for occupancy, there is a process to determine who will live in them.

“There’s tremendous interest. Our residents want to live in a tiny home, they don’t want to live in an apartment,” Stalk said. “We do a thorough crisis intervention triage, so we’ll know exactly who were putting in (to the tiny homes)."

Monthly rent on the homes will run around $650. With a HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing voucher, Stalk said, the out-of-pocket rent would be $200 to $250 for residents.

At a Tiny Homes Summit on Thursday, local homeless advocates and members of tiny home communities around the country shared stories of how the concept could work in Las Vegas.

“There’s evidence that it is a viable solution in many communities, and I think it could work here too,” said Emily Paulsen, Nevada Homeless Alliance spokesperson. “We have major shortage of housing options in Las Vegas and we don’t have the supply to fit the need.”

Paulsen said the area's unsheltered residents are living in subhuman conditions the majority of the time.

“It means they’re living in places that no human should, like storm drains and sidewalks," she said. “It’s not acceptable, especially when we know most them want assistance.”

During the homeless summit, stories were shared about how tiny home communities worked elsewhere and explained why they could work in Clark County. The success stories revealed that often times those who occupied the dwellings were job holders.

“We know that often people are working, but still live well below the poverty line and live in unstable housing environments or are homeless,” Paulsen said. “This could work in Las Vegas because we have the land and the need… we’ve got to find a way to create more homes.”

Stalk is hosting a seminar Wednesday at Veterans Village in which he'll offer guidance on how to construct a tiny home and provide information on how to get a community going.

Stalk thinks the approach is just what Las Vegas needs to help alleviate homelessness around the city.

“I see a tremendous future for Las Vegas with this concept,” Stalk said. “It allows people to get off the street, get independent while paying a modest amount and live in a home. It’s a real home.”

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