Oakland’s Tiny Home Village Nears its Opening Date

By December, Oakland’s first tiny home village for the homeless youth would finally reach its construction’s full completion. The said center initially set its scheduled opening season on July 2020. Due to the pandemic happening earlier this year, however, the plan got delayed several times during its creation stages. The small home village’s location is at Oakland’s 633 Hegenberger Road.

Primarily, the housing project aims to provide shelter to at least 26 homeless youth around Oakland. Due to its intended occupants, workers decorated the place with vibrant, colorful murals to give it a bright and happy atmosphere.

The YSA Group and the Housing Project Details

The housing project started its drafting process in January 2016. The Youth Spirits Artwork group spearheaded the idea to its fruition, beginning the home construction in 2019. YSA is an art job training program for young people ages 16 to 25 in the Bay Area and is a Berkeley-based interfaith organization. According to YSA executive director Sally Hindman, the group’s goal is to express the youth’s deep spirit through art and use its transformative effect to save others and creatively portray the essence of justice and love to other people.

Upon the project’s completion, each 8′ x 10′ foot house would consist of multiple displays and pieces of furniture that the occupants would need. Inside every home includes electricity, storage space, a murphy bed, heated floors, windows, and skylights. Additionally, residents could also have access to a kitchen abode, communal showers, bathrooms, and a community gathering area for assemblies. Moreover, each home would have four assistants living in the quarters to help take care and supervise the young residents.

Throughout the village are murals scattered in communal spots’ fences and art designs on plaster beds. According to Hindman, the organization’s young members created the shelter to embody youth’s essence and make the future occupants feel at home with their new living quarters. She also mentioned that the young volunteers for the project do not wish to see the houseless kids sleep on the floors of a church any longer. Because of that, Hindman admitted that the thought of the young occupants sleeping everywhere had motivated them to carefully build the housing project to fit their needs and interests.

Following the guidelines imposed by Oakland’s “community cabins” program and the City of Oakland’s shelter legislation, the “empowerment” village would also serve as a transitional youth emergency home. According to the said rulings, they would permit occupants to remain in the community for a maximum of three years or until they find a permanent place to stay.

Hindman expressed her sentiment toward the state’s homeless youth, explaining that their situation is not their fault in the first place. As such, she declared that YSA would do its best to try and break the cycle of youth homelessness to prevent them from facing the same struggles their blood relatives faced before them.

Current Homeless Youth Count and the Housing’s Decided Blueprint

As of late, Alameda County has recorded over 1,700 homeless young people within its region. Additionally, the total count of affordable housing and shelter designated beds to amount to 36. Due to the homes completing its creation process, the county expects more than a 70% rise in youth appointed beds.

In planning for the village’s design, YSA worked closely with Professor Seth Wachtel, the USF Head of Community Architecture. According to him, he has never seen a tiny homes housing draft as creative and unique as YSA’s project. Moreover, Wachtel admitted that the village blueprint made him feel a sense of comfort and familiarity, enough to make someone call the living space his “home.”

The YSA’s social media coordinator, Reginald Gentry, said that despite the construction delays due to COVID-19, she assured that the tiny home village would serve as the nation’s model for housing homeless people and understand that art is more than physical painting or sketches.