Monday, December 10, 2018

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Tiny homes. Big hopes.

12/5/2018

Open house educates the public about new housing efforts.

The public toured tiny homes on Oct. 19 and heard about Joppa’s plan to provide transitional housing to the homeless.

Hope is on the horizon for people without a home. And it is arriving just in time for the holiday season. At a recent open house, Joppa — an organization helping homeless people survive, find housing and rebuild their lives — showcased three new tiny homes that were built as potential housing options for people in need. The tiny homes were on display at Polk City Methodist Church, 1421 W. Broadway St., where volunteers led public tours last October.

Joppa’s tiny homes are designed by BSB Designs and measure approximately 90 square feet. Each is fully furnished and equipped with a bed, TV, refrigerator and microwave. The plan is for each tiny home to be within 50 feet of a building with private restrooms, showers and laundry facilities. All the residences will be located in a gated community, and the organization is looking for land to place the houses. Ideally, the homes would be placed within 1 mile of a bus stop and within 1 mile of a grocery store.

The goal is to build 50 tiny homes for temporary housing to transition people away from homelessness. The cozy abodes come at a cost of approximately $6,000 for construction materials and $1,500 for the fixtures and furnishings. So far, donations and pledges have been received for 40 of the 50 tiny homes. Area high school and college students are building the homes. Seven homes are completed.

“It’s a great organization,” says Karen Thompson, who lives in Urbandale and has volunteered at Joppa for three years. She helped give tours and welcome the visitors.

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Cindy and Jim Pierce and their three grandkids — Madison, Savannah and Jacob — decorated the yellow tiny home.

“It was so much fun,” says Cindy, who also gave tours at the event. “It was an absolute blast.”

The group is also building cottage homes for the Des Moines area as well. These slightly larger dwellings offer more permanent living, measure 384 square feet and cost $35,000 to build. The anticipated rent for a cottage home is $300 to $500 a month.

“These homes are for people coming out of homelessness, people that have just come out of living under a bridge, tent or vehicle, and now they can stand up, they can retain heat and a sense of dignity and safety,” says Joe Stevens, who co-founded Joppa along with his wife, Jacki, and their son, Caleb Stevens. “When they leave, they don’t have to worry about all their stuff being gone when they come back, and it’s just a dignified, safe place to go. … The village is a gated community, so it’s a safe, secured place. We know who’s in the village at all times. You check in through the community center in the front. It’s a place with a resident manager and 24-hour security. These villages are modeled after other villages across the country that have been operating, some for 25 years. It’s nothing new. It’s something that we are actually copying. We are taking best practices from several villages and pulling that together here in Iowa. Services will be provided by existing service providers: Veteran’s Administration, Primary Health Care, etc. Joppa will continue to fill in the gaps in those services and programs as we do. That’s the big picture.”

But first, they need to find the perfect spot. ♦

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