Updates with construction of permanent housing at the site expected to start in early 2022.
The first two residents — one who slept the night before in a stairwell, the other in an abandoned warehouse — are living in Denver’s newest temporary tiny home village.
Cole Chandler, executive director of Colorado Village Collaborative, said the two moved Wednesday into the Women’s Village at Clara Brown Commons in the Cole neighborhood.
Clara Brown Commons, on a lot bound by York and Gaylord streets and 37th and 38th avenues, will eventually be the site of 61 income-restricted apartments and 17 affordable for-sale town homes in a project led by Mile High Ministries. Mile High Ministries, which for decades has provided transitional housing and other community services in Denver, is working with affordable housing developer Habitat for Humanity on the Clara Brown project.
Colorado Village Collaborative’s 14 tiny homes for women and transgender individuals experiencing homelessness are expected to occupy part of the block during much of the construction of the affordable housing. Jeff Johnsen, executive director of Mile High Ministries, said he anticipated breaking ground on a year-long construction project in early 2022. Chandler and Johnsen envision village residents one day moving into permanent housing at Clara Brown Commons.
Tiny home villages have been built elsewhere in the country. The model was first championed in Denver by people experiencing homeless and activists. The Women’s Village is the second community of tiny homes built and managed by the Colorado Village Collaborative, a nonprofit that also will be managing one of Denver’s first sanctioned campsites. Tiny home villages and sanctioned camp sites, the latter also known as safe outdoor spaces, are alternatives to shelters and bridges to permanent housing that aim to accommodate people experiencing homelessness who have been poorly served by traditional shelters. Women and transgender individuals and couples or people with pets often can’t get a bed in the traditional shelter system. Others avoid shelters because they see them as chaotic, dangerous or failing to provide privacy.
The congregation at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church had offered to host a tiny village for women in its parking lot at 2015 Glenarm Place in the Clements Historic District. But the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission blocked that project in 2018 on the grounds that it had no historical precedent.
Colorado Village Collaborative piloted Denver’s first tiny home village starting in 2017 on private land near the 38th & Blake RTD commuter rail station. That village, known as Beloved Community Village, moved last year to 4400 N. Pearl Street in Globeville. A below-market-rate apartment building now sits at the 38th & Blake site that the village once occupied. One of the residents of the apartment complex once lived in the Beloved Community Village.
In all, 11 people have moved from Beloved Community Village into permanent housing, according to the Colorado Village Collaborative.
The University of Denver’s Center for Housing and Homelessness Research has been monitoring the Beloved Community Village since 2017. The researchers’ latest assessment compared village residents to a control group of people experiencing homelessness over a year that ended in October and included the pandemic. The researchers found that villagers were four times more likely to be working or in school and reported lower levels of anxiety, depression and hopelessness than people in the control group. But the researchers did not find improvements in other areas, such as average hourly pay, for village residents.
Chandler said Thursday that a third village was planned for next year, and more in subsequent years.