Cozy Cottages: Tiny Homes as a Solution to House the Homeless

SREHUP leadership has known for awhile now that in order to help the largest population of vulnerable individuals possible, we will need to operate in a property that we own. We have spent almost two years exploring various options, traveling around the world to learn from other successful shelters, partnered with amazing organizations and put in long hours of work trying to determine the best path forward in claiming a place of our own.

As many of you may know, SREHUP had a building under contract earlier this year. It seemed like the perfect fit for us – there was enough space for over 100 people to have their own bedrooms with their pets, a perfect spot for a gym, room for a rooftop garden, and office space for our partners. There was room to grow and we were ecstatic thinking about the potential.

Unfortunately, there were a lot of unexpected obstacles in obtaining this building. While we planned to be an epicenter for community gathering and positivity, we were ultimately met with zoning issues that could not be overcome.

After this major blow, we decided to investigate other options. We learned about the problems that zoning can present with buildings such as vacant hospitals, schools, warehouses, and other places not intended for habitation. Rezoning properties can take a year or more, and these buildings would cost us upwards of $750k-$1M, with renovations only adding more cost.

So where did we land after countless hours of analysis? A village of Tiny Homes on land in Philadelphia. This option will not only put zoning considerably in our favor and be a fraction of the cost of other options we had explored, it will also be environmentally friendly, progressive, and revolutionary. With the support of Councilman Allan Domb and Councilman Mark Squilla, we have already tackled some of the major hurdles in breaking ground on this exciting new initiative.

Our village of cozy cottages will house the homeless and their pets in multiple tiny homes on site with a community center that will provide meals and resources that help individuals get back on their feet.

This opportunity also gives us the freedom to scale up over time. Ultimately, the plan for our project is to have different “tiered” villages. Land plots for these villages are being donated to us by generous Philadelphians who love our mission. We’ve had so many offers, our team and lawyers are currently going to work on them. 

First Tier Village: The starting village for people who are homeless and their pets. Each person who comes into our first village of cozy cottages has a discharge plan. We will have a community center on site for shared meals and activities, and ALL services needed to help people get back on their feet. (Mental healthcare, physical healthcare, job training, financial literacy workshops, GED training and college prep, etc. Being closely linked to all the local universities helps with this). When our clients “graduate” from this tier (after approximately one year), they move on into the second and third tiered villages.

Second Tier Village: Shallow rent subsidized cozy cottages.

Third Tier Village: Home ownership of cozy cottages. 

All members of our community are lifelong clients, and once they come through our program they always have access to our services and community centers.

So we will be cycling people through the program on their way from homelessness to housing.

Interested in learning more? Check out our recent media coverage HERE and subscribe to our quarterly newsletter to stay on top of the latest and greatest happenings!