Tiny House, Huge Impact

Tiny houses can have big impacts.

In Des Moines, several groups – Joppa, the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute – Community Leadership Program, and Norwalk High School – are using a tiny house community to initiate a three-step process to rehabilitate the homeless in Des Moines.

It’s an inventive solution to a systemic problem. According to Joppa’s website, 1,000 people are homeless each day in Central Iowa. Of those, 350 find relief in transitional housing, 400 in one of the 11 emergency shelters, and the remaining 250 are left without a safe, secure, weather-proof option every night.

Joppa is changing those statistics, one tiny house at a time. OPN’s Joe Feldmann, AIA, is on the team designing and advocating for the tiny home village. Currently, the project is working to create a model home to raise awareness, funds, and secure a location to get the project off the ground.

Similar initiatives have been successfully implemented across the nation. In 2014, Occupy Madison Inc. completed its first phase of a tiny home village to provide a temporary housing solution for the homeless in an east Madison. Today, the village is home to five residents in three houses. Fundraising is underway for a second phase, which will include the addition of six homes, a bathroom, and a community room with kitchen and laundry facilities.

The Des Moines team traveled to Madison to learn from the group there. This video shows what they learned:

In Des Moines, the proposed tiny home village would provide a safe, clean place to live, one free meal a day, and the resources to secure a steady income to 50 to 100 people, all at no cost to the City of Des Moines or Polk County.

Students at Norwalk High School will build a plywood shell exterior with a gable roof peaking at 9 feet, 6 inches, a front porch, and a paintable interior wall to allow residents to personalize the space. They will hand it off to the Community Leadership Program to finish the interiors. A community house will contain bathrooms, a kitchen, and a conference room, where social workers will offer job training sessions and mental health evaluations. The 96-square-foot houses will be leased rent-free – excluding utilities – to individuals or couples and their pets for six to 24 months.

The plan has received support from the community, but is halted awaiting the city’s approval for land use. Find out more and show your support for the Joppa initiative on the organization’s website.