Skip to main content.

Does the tiny home movement really help people escape homelessness?

Does the tiny home movement really help people escape homelessness?

Picture of Marisa Kendall
A vehicle encampment is photographed along Castro Street on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022, in Richmond, California. The city has appl
A vehicle encampment is photographed along Castro Street on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022, in Richmond, California. The city has applied for a state grant to address homeless encampments.
(Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

Tiny homes appear to be the wave of the future in homelessness services, with cities all over the state investing heavily in this relatively new solution. 

Many communities are using tiny homes, "pallet shelters," modular apartments and more instead of the traditional dorm-style homeless shelters. The advantages during a pandemic are clear — giving people an individual unit helps prevent the spread of the virus, while also giving the occupants a sense of privacy, safety and dignity. So, cities are pouring money into them.

Mayor Sam Liccardo wants to triple San Jose’s number of modular apartments, after already building several projects in the past year. Oakland recently spent nearly $5 million on two "pallet shelter" sites. 

These sites are politically appealing because they get people off the street and help clean up unsightly encampments that spark scores of complaints from local residents. But they aren’t permanent solutions. And even though they are supposed to be a stepping stone that leads to long-term housing, I continually hear reports of people who leave these tiny homes and end up homeless once again.

So, does the new tiny home model actually work? That's what I want to find out. There's not much research on these programs yet. Preston Prince, head of the Santa Clara County Housing Authority, believes we don't have evidence that they actually succeed in getting people out of homelessness.

For my 2022 California Fellowship project, I plan to request data on participant outcomes for tiny home programs throughout the Bay Area. This may be an extensive undertaking, since they are operated by many different providers. And I will find multiple tiny home residents to follow for several months, documenting whether their stay in a tiny home ultimately helped them find housing. 

Leave A Comment

Announcements

The USC Center for Health Journalism at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is seeking two Engagement Editors to serve as thought leaders in one of the most innovative and rewarding arenas in journalism today – “engaged reporting” that puts the community at the center of the reporting process. Learn more about the positions and apply to join our team.

Nowhere was the massive COVID wave of winter 2021 more devastating than in America’s nursing homes, where 71,000 residents died in the surge. In this webinar, we’ll hear from the lead reporter in the USA Today series "Dying for Care," who will show how an original data analysis and an exhaustive reporting effort revealed a pattern of unnecessary deaths that compounded the pandemic’s brutal toll. Sign-up here!

CONNECT WITH THE COMMUNITY

Follow Us

Facebook


Twitter

CHJ Icon
ReportingHealth