An image of tiny homes.
By Abby Rolland
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), homelessness in the U.S. has been trending down for more than a decade. Twenty percent fewer people were unhoused in the U.S. last year in 2021 compared to 2010.*
In Philadelphia, about 5,700 people are considered homeless, which includes about 950 people who are unsheltered. According to the city’s Office of Homeless Services (OHS), Philadelphia has the lowest number of street homeless per capita of any of the largest cities in the U.S., despite the city’s high per capita poverty rate.
In 2009, Congress passed the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act and designed the Continuum of Care (CoC) Program to:
promote a community-wide commitment to the goal of ending homelessness and
quickly rehouse individuals and families experiencing homelessness, increase their access and utilization of mainstream social supports, and optimize their self-sufficiency.
The CoC Program works to house individuals while “minimizing the trauma and dislocation caused to homeless individuals, families, and communities by homelessness; promote access to and effect utilization of mainstream programs by homeless individuals and families; and optimize self-sufficiency among individuals and families experiencing homelessness.” CoC focuses on finding and providing impermanent housing to move individuals off the streets.
So, what can be done to provide access to temporary housing that will help individuals work toward securing more permanent housing?
According to NPR, tiny homes are spreading as a solution to homelessness across several states. Organizations and local government entities looking to help house people, especially during cold weather and at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, have found tiny homes to be one way to move people from the streets into temporary housing.
However, they are not without controversy.
Some believe that tiny homes as long-term solutions to homelessness creates a mindset that some people in society are less deserving of a full home. Others don’t want the homeless housed near them and prefer tiny home settlements to be far away from the core of the city. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost to the participant being so far away from necessary services. We view tiny homes as a temporary solution until the participant is ready and able to secure more permanent housing.
In Philadelphia, Sanctuary Village is actively working to build a tiny home village and has recently been funded by one of harp-weaver’s clients (harp-weaver serves as the connection point between our clients and the organizations that they fund**). The village, located in Holmesburg, will provide housing to individuals who are experiencing homelessness and who are over 65 years of age or have other comorbid conditions putting them at high risk. Sanctuary Village hopes that with the security of a home and the case management services provided, “residents can move on to permanent housing when ready.”
Tiny homes are one way to provide temporary housing and combat homelessness. harp-weaver believes that it takes cross-sector organizations collaborating on multiple strategies in order to provide accessible and safe housing to all members of our community.
*Note that the most recent State of Homelessness 2021 report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness says that homelessness actually increased between 2019 and 2020, and was the fourth straight year of incremental increase. However, in eight of the nine years before that trend, homelessness decreased.
**In addition to connecting with specific organizations who address homelessness, harp-weaver Principal Teresa Araco Rodgers serves on the board of the Roadmap to Homes initiative and on the Office of Homeless Services’ HUD Alignment Committee. We believe that her service helps harp-weaver understand best practices, provide well-sourced advice to our clients, and have a voice in discussions on homelessness.