North Idaho

CDA group building tiny houses to combat homelessness

CDA group building tiny houses to combat homelessness

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - A group in Coeur d'Alene says tiny homes could be a solution to combat homelessness in the city.

"Even though they're kind of tiny, it's better than being on the street," said Randy Rogers, who has been homeless for nine months. Rogers says he usually sleeps down by the river. "I had a non work-related injury that caused me to lose my job and I didn't have any money to pay rent."

He and his friend Eric, who is also homeless, helped build a model tiny home that now sits on the corner of Hwy 95 and Dalton.

The eventual goal: build a village full of these homes that would serve as temporary crisis housing for people like Randy and Eric, trying to get back on their feet.

"[Many homeless people are] really trying to make a life for themselves, it's just hard to dig yourself out when you're down below like that," Eric said.

"57 percent of our homeless population is unsheltered," said Gar Mickelson, the Homeless Outreach Coordinator for Heritage Health, and one of the people spearheading this project.

"Along the way, we've been able to build a group of people who really want to get this done, probably 100 people on board with it," Mickelson said of the project.

The cabins would be fully insulated, with one window and one door. The village would have a communal kitchen tent and portable bathrooms/showers.

Mickelson says the village would be modeled after a similar project in Seattle.

"[It's] an environment where they're living in community in cabins with other people that are going through those situations," Mickelson explained. "You have professional services, case managers, peer support specialists, rehab folks, veterans services coming to them, and then you have churches surrounding that that can do the soul care piece which is instrumental in the success in the model over in Seattle."

Mickelson says they have support from various churches, businesses and non-profits, and now they are working to get permission from the city and find a location to build.

The Coeur d'Alene Police Department tells KXLY there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the project, and they worry it could attract more transients and crime to the area.

Eric and Randy say it would be a place where their basic needs are met, so they can focus on rebuilding what they've lost.

"Worrying about the day to day living, it's something else," Eric said.