A Tiny Home Solution

Joppa Outreach makes progress toward tiny home community.

The January 2017 BUILD introduced readers to Joppa, a Des Moines-based nonprofit working to address the problem of homelessness in the metro area. One of Joppa’s efforts in working toward that goal is to create practical housing alternatives to help the homeless transition toward becoming contributing members of the community.

In the four years since Joppa began exploring the possibility of tiny homes as a solution for those without full-time jobs, more and more cities across the country have begun operating their own tiny home villages.

According to Joppa cofounder Joe Stevens, “When we first started researching the tiny home concept, there were 25 villages in operation across the U.S., some in existence for as long as 15 years. That number continues to grow.”

The past several months have also seen significant progress in Joppa’s efforts in the Des Moines area.

The Joppa Tiny Home BIG TOUR, which took place early this year, enabled 7,000 people across more than 30 locations to tour the first tiny home model. Then Ankeny’s ACE Mentor students built a second tiny home early this summer.

Joppa is also working closely with civic leaders to research and develop land for its first transitional community.

As Stevens explained in our January issue, “We’re really aiming for something special. We want to do more than just give people a place to sleep. We want to address the underlying needs and create homes and communities that restore dignity to lives.”

Joppa’s hope is to break ground on the first of two villages in the near future. “Ideally, we’d like to build our transitional village first,” says Stevens. The plan for the first village includes tiny homes built around a central hub with central bathroom and laundry facilities, a meal and community center, and a shared recreation area and community gardens.

“Our plan is to offer 96-square-foot homes similar to the tour model home as transitional housing, with residents required to volunteer within the community,” Stevens says. “From there, people can work toward permanent housing, which would be our second village project.”

That second project, known as a permanent supportive village, would feature individual tiny homes with their own kitchen and bath. To qualify for these homes, residents must have consistent employment and the ability to handle monthly rents of $300 to $400.

In order to continue its public education efforts, Joppa is partnering with a number of local organizations to build additional tiny homes and to construct demo villages that will allow the community to see what a Joppa Village will look like.

One Joppa supporter noted, “The challenge for Joppa is to help the community and the city understand their vision. It means adopting the latest International Residential Codes (IRC) and essentially redefining what a ‘house’ is and reinterpreting city planning philosophies.”

Stevens agrees. “People have preconceived notions about the homeless and what a tiny home village means to the community. But if they understood our upscale vision, if they saw the results other cities have achieved and how these communities have benefited everyone, neighborhoods would be clamoring to have Joppa Villages built in their area.”

Supporters are already lining up to participate in build projects scheduled this fall. Drake University students hope to build a couple tiny homes in October, during the school’s annual DU Good Week. And construction technology programs at schools across the state have approached Joppa about building tiny houses over the course of the school year.

“We have some great partners and wonderful support from community members,” Stevens says. “We want to put that excitement to work and extend that throughout the Des Moines community so Joppa Villages can become a reality.”

Learn more about Joppa Outreach and get involved in its mission, visit Joppa.org.