Jessica Cejnar / Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019 @ 3:18 p.m. / Homelessness

Hope Village Introduces Tiny House Program As One Way To Help Del Norte County Homeless

Representatives of a Medford-based nonprofit introduced their tiny house village model to the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday as a possible way to help people escape homelessness.

Since it opened in 2017, Rogue Retreat’s Hope Village has a 60 percent success rate, cost about $650,000 to build and has operating expenses of about $11,000 a month, said Matthew Vorderstrasse and Chad McComas, the organization’s development director and executive director.

But, though she urged Vorderstrasse and McComas to make a presentation before her colleagues, Board Chair Lori Cowan said True North Organizing Committee’s Homeless Organizing Network, which brought Hope Village to her attention, would need to develop a plan determining whether a similar model would work in Del Norte. Crescent City officials would also need to be part of the conversation, Cowan said.

“I decided to let them present so more people will hear about it,” Cowan said referring to Rogue Retreat. “(True North) would need to come to us with a plan — how we’ll come up with the money, the property, who’s on the steering committee….”

Hope Village consists of 30 8-by-10 housing units in tiny home duplexes, Vorderstrasse said. Though they’re insulated and have windows, the units don’t have electricity, water or plumbing. Vorderstrasser said the City of Medford thinks of them as “wooden tents.”

Villagers access kitchen, showers and restroom facilities in mobile trailers, according to Vorderstrasse. An office building houses a community gathering area, laundry, case manager offices and a manned host for checking in and out. Hope Village is on roughly an acre of city-owned property in Medford, according to Vorderstrasse.

According to Jackson County’s Point-in-Time Count, 1,000 people were unsheltered in January 2019, according to Vorderstrasse. However, under the McKinney-Vento Act, which establishes a criteria for homeless youth, the combined number of unsheltered adults and children in Jackson County is 2,000, he said.

Once they find a place in Hope Village, its clients are charged a $60 monthly housing fee for their first three months, McComas said. That fee increases every three months by about $100, he said.

“By the time they get to $375, they’re going to go, ‘Why am I here in a shed for $375 when I can get a room somewhere or rent an apartment?’” McComas said. “Even our laundry facilities are coin operated. We’re trying to teach them that it takes money to live.”

Hope Village’s case managers are a key element of its success, McComas said. Once a client is housed, the case managers determine how to help them begin generating an income. This includes helping them apply for disability, obtain a high school diploma if they don’t have one and find a job, he said.

Meanwhile clients are required to submit to weekly inspections of their housing units and do daily chores such as picking up garbage and weeding, McComas said.

Hope Village isn’t a place where people can come in off the streets to get food or other services, he said.

“We keep it as a gated community for the people who live there,” McComas said. “Frankly people drive by twice before they find it. It’s not what they’re looking for. They’re thinking, ‘OK, where’s the trashiest place in town?’”

According to Vorderstrasse, the $650,000 that was used to establish Hope Village came from individual donations, grants and foundation support. About $100,000 came from the Community Action Agency in Jackson County.

According to McComas, churches and local Kiwanis and Rotary organizations also raised money for Hope Village.

Support from the Medford City Council opened up opportunities for Rogue Retreat to receive state and foundation dollars for Hope Village. Private donors were also more willing to give with the city’s support.

However getting the entire City Council on board with Hope Village was challenging, McComas said. Some were excited, while others were skeptical. McComas said the city required Rogue Retreat to put $20,000 in a bank account to be used “in case they had to come clean up after us.” Six months later, Medford’s chief of police supported Hope Village and the City Council voted unanimously in favor of its expansion, he said.

“They gave us our $20,000 back,” McComas said. “Our chief folks supporting us are city officials and the chief of police, especially.”
Rogue Retreat’s Hope Village model has been so successful, Vorderstrasse said they’re in the process of establishing another tiny house village in Grants Pass.

Since becoming established, McComas said homeless advocates from other communities have visited Hope Village to see if a similar model would work for them. This includes hosting 40 mayors from other Oregon cities earlier in August.

McComas and Verdestrasse spent much of their presentation fielding questions from Del Norte County supervisors. District 1 Supervisor Roger Gitlin, who at meetings in July and August requested a list of vacant county-owned properties to find a parcel of land suitable for a “staging area for the homeless,” asked about the cost of each unit, their maintenance and any potential challenges in keeping them looking “pristine.”

“This is a very encouraging opportunity you’re putting before us,” Gitlin told Verdestrasse and McComas. “I’m interested to look it over.”

Following the Hope Village presentation, Pat Henderson, senior pastor of Solid Rock Christian Fellowship, urged the Board of Supervisors to keep pursuing a similar model for Del Norte County.

“A couple things they didn’t mention, they have a thrift store in Medford and it’s really good quality stuff, barely used, and all profits go toward the program,” Henderson said.

Henderson also addressed an earlier announcement of Gitlin’s about a cleanup effort Wednesday on private property near Walmart.

“There’s (also) a group of people (Rogue Retreat) employ who pick up a lot of trash in the city,” Henderson said. “We were talking about that earlier, about a group of volunteers who help pickup trash. There’s an interesting saying that only about half of the trash in the city is from the homeless, the other half is from citizens throwing trash out. It’s a productive way to get people and give them an actual job and provide that job for them.”

Cowan, however, noted that setting up a tiny house program similar to Hope Village is one component to address Del Norte County’s homeless challenge. Solving homelessness isn’t going to be solved by the county, she said.

“I always said it’s not a county problem, it’s a community problem,” she said, “and that’s how it’s going to be fixed.”


© 2024 Lost Coast Communications Contact: