Tiny Homes Could Change Lives
Unique program will build 36 homes for young people aging out of foster care.
A local non-profit has plans for a unique approach to supportive housing.
Pathfinders, an organization that works with youth traumatized by homelessness and also sexual assault and mental illness, has partnered with the developer Gorman & Company and a state agency to build 36 “tiny homes” for young people aging out of foster care.
“That’s a group of young people that we know are vulnerable because we see a third of those ending up in the adult emergency shelter system within the first two years of being in foster care,” said Tim Baack, President and CEO of Pathfinders, in meeting before the City Plan Commission on Monday.
The tiny homes will be built near the Pathfinders drop-in resource center at 4200 N. Holton St. It will be a small community of homes just a one-minute walk from the center. There the young adults will have access to supportive services, a case manager and also job training. Baack said they chose the tiny home model in order to give the young adults a sense of privacy and a feeling of community. The development would also include a community garden and bike racks.
Gorman Wisconsin Market President Ted Matkom said the company will make available its workforce development program for the residents. Gorman runs this program at scattered supportive housing sites around the city, and offers apprenticeships in trades like carpentry, electrical, plumbing and HVAC.
The project went before the Plan Commission to seek rezoning for the site which is currently zoned light industrial. MATC currently owns the land and they will lease it to Pathfinders for $1.
“This is maybe the most unique place I’ve been in development,” Matkom said. “Everything is in place except for the zoning. We’ve got the funding, we’ve got granters that want to fund this, we’ve got people who want to live there, we got a program from the state.”
The plan calls for 12 units per year to be built over the next three years. And the partners hope to have some of the residents helping in the construction of the homes in the second and third years.
Each home will be between 300 and 350 square feet, and will be fully functional with a kitchen and bathroom. Matkom said the cost per unit with all systems installed will be about $80,000 per unit. That puts the total price tag at $2.8 million over the next three years.
The program is targeting 17 to 22 year olds aging out of foster care. And it is guided by a “housing first” philosophy which argues that stable housing should be the first priority for the chronically homeless, then services can be tailored to individual needs. The approach was developed nationally and has been adopted by Milwaukee County, as Urban Milwaukee writer Dave Fidlin has reported.
“Housing really needs to come first so that stability and safety is present,” Baack says. “And from there all else becomes possible.”
James Mathy, director of Milwaukee County Housing Division, said the housing retention rate for individuals using the housing first model is 97 percent. Milwaukee County has already committed $100,000 to the project, Mathey said, and funds from the Department Housing and Urban Development will subsidize many of the homes.
The service and case management at the site will be based upon a program developed by Pathfinders and the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families since 2013. This program uses “intensive case management” and “service focused work” to help the population that the tiny home community is targeting.
“These are young people who don’t have a sense of community or a sense of family.” Baack said. “So to have them be part of building a community and owning (homes) we think is really important for launching them into successful adulthood.”