Gallatin Valley Housing Crisis
Over 100 people will sleep outside in their car, trailers, or a shed within Gallatin County tonight. Every year around this time those who are homeless struggle to find safe and secure solutions to not only find somewhere to survive, but somewhere they can begin to thrive.
Follow the SW Montana HRDC Instagram for resources as well as opportunities to volunteer!
Fork and Spoon Bozeman brings the Mighty Spork Truck!
Final Touches 10/28/2021
MSU’s contribution to the project
The MSU School of Architecture, Professor and Director of the school Ralph Johnson, as well as a group of graduate students were the creative minds behind Housing First. The school created a class for 12 students to take over the year to design, drafted and helped build the tiny homes. The class was instructed by Bill Clinton. The students . looked at 17 other Tiny Home communities catered to sheltering homeless residents across the country for inspiration. The professors cite not only the social aspect of the community, but also the fiscal benefits of tiny home communities like Housing First Village.
The minds behind Housing First Village: Rev. Connie Campbell-Pearson
One of the main developers of the tiny home community was Rev. Connie Campbell-Pearson of the St. James Episcopal Church of Bozeman. Pearson was approached by an MSU architecture professor and HRDC early on in the search for a solution to Bozeman’s homeless, and was quick to offer the church’s support to the cause. Other contributors to the project recall Connie’s passion and determination for the tiny home project.
The early days: Housing First Village
Prior to the creation of Housing First Village, Bozeman’s Warming Center was the only form of shelter for over 200 homeless residents in the city-county. Every night, around 100 homeless were left without shelter due to a lack of beds in the Warming Center. To find a solution to the danger homeless faced each day, HRDC wanted to find a “different, more creative” solution, and tiny homes fit the bill. The city planning department, in conjunction with HRDC and the St. James Episcopal Church began developing their vision of the Housing First Village.
- Communities helping other communities
12 grad students from Montana State University’s School of Architecture we able to help on this project and take a class with professor Bill Clinton, the Fabrication shop director, where they researched other communities similar to what they were trying to achieve to find the right fit for the tiny home community.
- Creating the Spaces
“Somehow you have to create in a tiny space, a sense of spaciousness” – Prof. Ralph Johnson
MSU students looked at over a dozen shelter unit communities across the country to draw inspiration, but also note unsuccessful models.
- Many Parts
The Housing First Village was able to come so far because of all the people involved. It all started in 2017 when Reverend Connie Campbell-Pearson had the idea of building tiny homes for the homeless. As if it was meant to be, Connie met Professor Ralph Johnson, the Director of the School of Architecture at MSU, who decided to dedicate a whole class to the project. Then there is the HRDC which has done so much, like connect to the ones in need of these new homes. Without all these different people and parts to the project who knows where the Housing First Village would be today.
Buzzard is an artist who paints most of the windows in down town Bozeman, he says painting is his therapy. Buzzard has been living in Bozeman for about 10 or 11 years now, and has been homeless for most of that time, due to medical issues. The HRDC was able to help Buzzard get an apartment, which has in turn improved his health, allowing him to put more work into his art.
- The Financial Benefit of Tiny homes
The housing first village has both a social benefit and a financial/fiscal benefit for the Bozeman community as a whole. “For every homeless person in Bozeman, the community pays over $28,000 per person per year in public paid costs like emergency room services, law enforcement, and services. Placing individuals in the Housing First Village could cut these costs by $17.000 per person per year.”
- Scott’s Story
Scott supports himself by selling commissioned artwork. He spends lots of his time at the Bozeman public library producing his work since he has no where else to go. Even though he is homeless, he spends much of his time volunteering at the children’s library.
- Full Circle
Verna Smith spent her first three years in Bozeman homeless due to a work related injury that caused reconstruction on both of her shoulders and caused a compressed spine which inevitably causes significant pain that she has to deal with everyday. She said it’s very hard to live in Bozeman when your’e homeless because people disregard you. Due to the help of the HRDC, she is now able to work full-time for the HRDC helping women and families secure housing in recent years.
- Housing FIRST… Breaking Stereotypes ALWAYS
Housing First means creating a strategy in combatting the “social and health” related problems associated with being homeless. It means ensuring dignity within the safety and security of one’s own space so that they can then begin to find personal and long-term solutions.
- How can one get connected?
To respect the privacy of the residents we may not be able to interview or photograph them. Instead, Allie interviewed Devon the main social worker and got to know more about them that way. Our goal is to show the tiny houses after the residents have decorated for christmas but we may not be able to do this due to the semester and project ending in early december. Instead we were able to draw on the progress from the beginning of the project in order to envision how this growth may continue. At the moment, errands are Devins biggest priority. Ensuring that all of the residents can get the goods they need to be supported mentally and physically she drives them to the store multiple times a week. In respecting their privacy, residents and especially warming center regulars are highly appreciative of donated non-perishables and hygienic products as they now have somewhere to keep them.
- How Will Housing First Village Build Community Amongst Residents?
Housing First means the roof is not the issue, and this village is willing to go deeper.
In Housing First Village, decisions and the management of the community will be made by residents, for residents. Residents will have discretion over events, maintenance and some rules within the community. This allows the new residents to feel at-home, as they would in any other housing community/HOA (homeowners association). The building that currently serves as an overnight shelter will also expand its connections to serve as a community center for the village. Residents will be able to eat meals, do laundry and use computers here.
- Do You Know How Tight-Knit the Tiny Home Community Is?
It is very common for the homeless to work together to create a safe and livable environment. Often, community members will work together to gather supplies like food, shelter, etc. so no one person is left without resources or left to gather everything themselves. This is also where Housing First comes in – one of the foremost concerns of being homeless is not having a place for possessions. Oftentimes, homeless people must keep all their possessions in a backpack and feel vulnerable to theft or loss of their items. Housing First provides a safe, protected space to store belongings. When this simple need is met it is proven that mannerism and stress levels change as residents no longer have to worry about losing their items.
- What are the Benefits of the Tiny Homes Project?
This project allows these people to come together and gain access to communities they need to become successful. In their visits in these homes, ranging from 3-4 weeks, they achieve what is needed to get back in to society at their own pace with a higher success rate. For example, they are engaged with emergency rooms for medical care and the detention center to take care of small demenears. These charges against them are not criminal, but often small tickets added up for not having a home to go to every night, they need help in detention centers to get these taken care of. While their stays are short, they are extremely beneficial. People under these conditions are often placed very temporarily and normally in large homes with multiple beds or families. It’s the Tiny Home Projects goal to have a stable and personal four wall home to prepare putting them back into society at their own rate.
- What is the Tiny Homes Project?
The Tiny Homes Project is the development of many tiny homes built by the HRDC to provide shelter for the homeless. Twelve have been put in place, with nineteen total planned to be built for the phase one. These homes were also just not built at random. Each color and style had purpose.
The buildings were designed in a trauma-informed matter. The designers had to put in place what they thought would make these people feel more comfortable and safe. The entrances to the bright colored homes are offset resulting in the bright-colored homes facing opposite ways in order to ensure privacy for the residents. Each home has its own kitchen and bathroom to ensure the individuality of the experience.
- What Does the HRDC Do in the Bozeman Community?
The HRDC (Human Resources Development Council) in Bozeman strives to eliminate the barriers that impede the growth and success of all people. The HRDC supplies an entire “toolbox” to all levels of low income individuals and families. This ranges from shelters to sleep warm and safely to preserving existing housing that needs repairs.
They also make it possible for the renters to become owners so they are able to earn equity on their investments (Community Housing Land Trust Model). This community serves over 12,000 people each year. When the cost of living increases, the number of people in need does as well. This Council is not just responsible for the homeless, as they advertise on their website “anyone can fall on hard times”.