‘Moving forward’ on tiny home development in Nevada County | SierraSun.com

‘Moving forward’ on tiny home development in Nevada County

Matthew Pera
mpera@theunion.com

Sierra Roots, an organization that serves Nevada County’s chronically homeless population, is working on a development proposal that could provide 40 permanent housing units for people who are currently homeless.

Janice O’Brien, the organization’s president, said Sierra Roots is in the process of negotiating with landowners to buy a property in Nevada City. It may soon begin a capital campaign to help fund the purchase. Grants would provide additional funding.

The development, O’Brien said, would contain tiny-house units under 300 square feet in size, which would each include a sleeping area, shower, kitchenette and sitting area. A community center — which would include computers, a dining area, and space for entertainment and classes — would be open to residents and visitors.

“It’s not just housing,” O’Brien said. “It’s also a supportive community for up to 40 people.”

The idea, she said, has been in the works for over 10 years. Sierra Roots has searched for a suitable property — which O’Brien said would need to be close to a city, near a bus line and correctly zoned — but hasn’t been successful in finding one. Now, the organization may have found the right spot, according to O’Brien.

The goal, O’Brien said, is to build a village where residents can eat good food daily, shower, do laundry, and have private, secure places to sleep. Residents would actively contribute to designing, building and maintaining the village.

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In order to make progress toward housing the county’s homeless population, “you’ve got to take risks, and you’ve got to move forward,” O’Brien said.

The development “wouldn’t solve our problem,” she said, “but it’s one arrow in the quiver.”

Residents would pay rent for a permanent spot in the tiny-home village. O’Brien said they’d likely be charged about 30 percent of their income for rent, which could come from a job or from government assistance checks. Residents would also likely be given some equity, “so they leave with something if they decide they want to move away from the village,” O’Brien said, noting that all of the details haven’t been fleshed out yet.

Sierra Roots would likely hire a skilled manager to take care of day-to-day operations at the village, O’Brien said. A council comprised of Sierra Roots leaders and village residents would be formed to make important decisions.

Residents would be required to make a plan for their “path to health,” O’Brien said, and would be held accountable for following that plan, along with following community agreements.

Resident would also be required to have local roots, O’Brien said, noting that well over a dozen local homeless people have already approached her and expressed interest in the village.

O’Brien said the population Sierra Roots works with isn’t the same population that is causing crime issues in local cities.

“I’m not working with those people,” O’Brien said. “I have very strict boundaries about that.”

The organization, she said, serves homeless individuals who want to improve their situations, but are facing barriers due to issues including poverty and mental health.

The village, she said, could help those people improve their lives.