Homelessness can bring about unique stressors that housed people do not feel. Crisis fatigue is an illness that arises when you are under overwhelming, long-lasting stress with no end in sight. When you rent or own a house, the stress may be financial and time-based but also momentary; things will get better over time.
This is what being homeless can feel like.
Crisis fatigue shows up as physical exhaustion, apathy, and mental detachment. When the stress is gone, and people can think, relax, and heal, they can start to hope again. The community services involved in the Tiny House Village in Oshkosh, WI, are experts in helping people through crisis fatigue to become whole again.
Alternative Housing Options spoke with Will Deppiesse, the Board President for the Oshkosh Kids Foundation, about his role and vision for the community and the tiny house village.
Will and Julie Dumke, Co-Founder and Executive Director, have been on the front lines talking with partners and non-profits. They have been working to put together the programming that will be necessary to help the families when they become residents. Their goals are to educate local service clubs, raise funds, and meet with contractors and donors to produce the buildings and services the Oshkosh Kids Foundation wants on site. Once construction of the community center is completed, and the first set of tiny homes are installed, the families can move in.
They have been working on fundraising and getting the community partners to be supportive first, not duplicating services but aligning with other agencies in town. Instead of having the village residents scattered to get services, the community center will allow services to come to the residents.
Programming and services for the village
A big issue with the future residents of the village is a lack of transportation, over 60% don’t have transportation. So asking residents to travel across town with kids in tow to meet with a counselor, advisor, or get to work is a problem. That is why the Community center is the heartbeat of the vision of the Tiny House Village. All of that activity can happen there, and people will not be missing their appointments to get the support they need to get on their feet.
Programming is the most critical component compared to other affordable housing projects. Once the programming is set, the community center is built, and the first eight homes are completed, families can start moving into the village.
ADVOCAP is providing a two-year rental assistance program for families. ADVOCAP has families qualified for housing assistance, but they have no place to house them. There are 175 homeless children documented in the area this last school year. ADVOCAP will work with the families on-site to get them set up with the correct classes and counseling. There will be three offices in the building, one dedicated to the ADVOCAP counselor.
Residents will also learn how to be better renters. In the past, they may not have had good models to follow for being a good renter. This type of housing allows residents to have their own space. They are not sharing walls, ceilings, or floors with others. The new construction building allows them a level of dignity. RentSmart will help them find landlords willing to help someone with a problematic rental history. Goodwill will provide a financial literacy class at the center.
The Boy’s and Girl’s Club will be involved to help the children in the village with their programming and growth opportunities. The center and programming will allow kids to have a place on-site to have a birthday party or celebrate community holidays and community-building activities.
There will also be a community garden and playground enrichment for the community. There will be families with young kids in a living area about the size of a hotel room. The building site allows for adequate green space for the kids to play, garden to develop some life skills by planting food, or landscaping skills to have a beautified area. These will translate to their new residence after the time at the village expires.
Overall, the size of the Oshkosh community has the same services that a larger area would have under a different agency name. The hope is they could replicate the tiny home village in different areas.
The location is significant
The location was chosen specifically because it’s easy to get to, and a large industrial park nearby. Many employers in the industrial park offer living wage jobs within walking distance of the village. This will be very beneficial for families to get employment and build savings. Older kids close to graduating high school can start a career and build a work history.
The location also helps by eliminating the choice between employment and childcare. Childcare is not cheap in NE WI; access to childcare can limit employment opportunities. Being near the industrial park gives options to the residents. The industrial park has large employers like Oshkosh Corp., Pacur, AMCOR, and local manufacturers like Lakeside Packaging, Oshkosh Marine Supply, and ProEx Extrusions. Allowing for a diversity in industry and skill sets they need for all of the roles in manufacturing, construction, administration, and skilled labor to provide living wages and create strong careers.
Choosing tiny homes specifically instead of a different housing model
In the current construction climate, tiny homes are more affordable per unit than large apartments. The project’s uniqueness also helped attract the primary donors, TJ and Valita Rodgers. OKF also wanted to create something scaleable and replicable in other areas. An apartment doesn’t have the same attention and allure from a donor aspect. And from a cost aspect, building an apartment complex is much more expensive than a tiny house village and community center. The current ballpark is $70,000 per unit. The units are prefabricated off-site, and once set, the interior will be built and ready for residents. Due to the climate, completing the exterior helps eliminate the risk of mold or other environmental factors during a build.
The phases of the building are only a couple of months apart. Even though there will be eight units placed at a time, it will only be a few months between the next installation. This allows for the units to be changed if there is a design issue that could be better. Those adjustments can be made in between the sets.
The Oshkosh community expects 900 new apartments to be built over the next few years. The expectation is for residents to move on to the regular rental market, transition to Habitat houses, or buy a house. The price point might be higher than the residents from the village can afford right away, but people currently renting may transition up, leaving more affordable housing for these folks. And because they have been gainfully employed while living in the village, they will have good housing options.
The following steps are to continue fundraising. The project has a 5M ticket, with a gap of 1.25M to be raised. Once the project is fully funded, they can share the lessons with other communities, non-profits, and foundations to inspire them for a project in their area.
An update on the building
The community center now has walls and trusses and is starting to take shape. It’s very exciting to see the center come together.
Alternative Housing Options is honored to be part of such an important building project in NE Wisconsin. Click the links throughout the article to learn more about any of the partners involved.