I had a chance to drop by the new Emerald Village development during a recent open house. Somehow the folks at the non-profit Square One Villages managed to orchestrate a low income tiny house neighborhood and spawn a new community. What an impressive accomplishment!
These are the same folks who created Opportunity Village, which has helped many folks get off the streets and find a place to stabilize and get their lives turned around. But Emerald Village takes their work to the next level! The huge list of architects and developers who contributed time, energy, and designs to the project is a testament to how people can come together for the benefit of those in need. I bet they had a small army of volunteers.
Even though all the houses are not yet completed, the village is officially open and I met a few of the folks who have already moved into their new homes. Everyone seemed quite satisfied with their tiny houses, which often have less than 250 square feet of space inside. I was impressed by many of the innovative designs that combined space saving features to create surprisingly livable homes in such small spaces.
Residents of Emerald Village are members of a housing cooperative and buy a share in the village which enables them to create an asset that can be cashed out when they choose to move out. They have a community agreement which outlines the basic code of conduct that all residents agree to, and requires that each resident participate in helping to manage the village. Residents pay $250 – $350 per month, which covers all maintenance and operating costs. Very cool!
I hope we are exiting the era where state and local governments are in the thrall of developers looking to turn a quick profit rather than be more socially responsible. It is nice to see grassroots efforts solving affordable housing issues today, and it would be great to see more of a movement at the city, county, and state levels to support these kinds of innovative projects. The greed of society has left many people out in the cold and it is time to find our hearts and mend our ways so that nobody has to worry about basic necessities, such as shelter and food, which many of us take for granted.
Posted By: Joshua Kielas, 07.19.2018
I dropped by the federal courthouse to check out the Rush Hour Resistance demonstration that happens there every Tuesday from 5-6pm. I was surprised there weren’t more people standing on the corner with signs. I learned there is a stalwart group that shows up each week to hold down the fort, but even with all the political craziness of the last couple years it has been difficult to get a crowd to come out and make a showing on a regular basis.
It’s nice to know this dedicated group of folks is out there at the courthouse so that anyone who can free up an hour after work to speak out doesn’t have to go it alone. You can make up a sign for your issue and show it to hundreds of people as they drive by after work. It seems to me this is an effort worth supporting!
Posted By: Joshua Kielas, 05.06.2018
The other day I wandered down to New Day Bakery and attended the monthly Green Drinks gathering. No, it has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day. It’s one of the longest running progressive social meetups in town. On the second Friday of each month from 5-7 pm a number of locals converge to eat, drink, socialize, and network about issues that matter. Some of the folks I chatted with have been working on issues in town for years, and had interesting perspectives, experience, and stories to share. As much as folks have been disheartened by politics of late, it seems they are also inspired to get involved and do something about it.
Posted By: Joshua Kielas, 04.19.2018
Conestoga huts at the Vet’s Camp
Helping the unhoused get out of the elements and into a safe place where they can gain stability, build community, and begin to rebuild their lives is no easy task. Doing it with care and on a limited budget is harder still. Yet that is what a dedicated group of folks have been doing over the last few years through an innovative nonprofit organization in town called Community Supported Shelters (CSS). And the idea is spreading…
If you have seen one of the now iconic Conestoga Huts around town, with their pioneer wagon style roofs, then you have seen the inventive handiwork of CSS co-founder Erik de Buhr. Along with his wife and co-executive director Fay de Buhr, they are leading the charge to revolutionize the way municipalities are dealing with some of the most vulnerable citizens among us, who for one reason or another have fallen through the cracks.
Founders Fay and Erik de Buhr present at fundraiser
To help solve this challenging societal issue they have implemented a number of what are called “Safe Spots” or “Rest Stops”, which are a type of camp where 20 or so people live in a gated community filled with tents on platforms and Conestoga Huts. Safe Spots help residents stabilize their lives and form the bonds of community with other residents. CSS also provides case workers who regularly check in with residents to help them navigate the system as they work to rebuild and move on to something better by the time their allotted 10 months in camp have passed.
Safe Spot residents load firewood at a work party
The organization raises most of its funds through individual donations from folks like you and me. I recently had the opportunity to attend this year’s big annual fundraiser. There I heard testimonials from folks the program has helped and inspired, including people from other cities and other states that are excited about Conestoga Huts and the Safe Spot model, and are working to implement them in their localities. I learned that outcomes have been extremely promising for camp residents with around 60% moving on to something better after their stay. And I really felt excited to be a part of this innovative group.
Posted by: Joshua Kielas, 04.05.2018