RENO — A coalition of faith-based and human services groups is working to build a tiny house village for the homeless in Reno, but they need money and land.
They would also need the city of Reno to change its zoning and building code laws to allow for such homes to be built without bathrooms, kitchens or other code requirements that other builders are held to.
At the Reno City Council meeting Wednesday, Pat Cashell of Volunteers for America and Sharon Chamberlain of Northern Nevada HOPES presented their ideas for a tiny home village to help house the chronically homeless.
The plan is modeled after similar villages in Seattle; Portland, Ore.; and Eugene, Ore. It would include 40 bare-bone houses that one councilwoman likened to a "tent with hard walls," including a roof and a locking door. The houses would be situated around a central building with bathrooms and kitchen facilities.
Cashell said the group would count on volunteers from youth groups, church groups and other community members to donate supplies and labor. He estimated each house would cost about $3,800 to build.
Chamberlain estimated the project would need a $270,000 operating budget, which would fund a project manager and case managers who could help connect residents to other social services and permanent housing.
The village would help close a housing gap that is widening as Reno comes to grips with an economic recovery that is driving housing prices up and vacancy rates down.
Human services agencies have seen wait times triple as they try to find transitional housing for chronically homeless individuals who can't make use of the shelter because they have a partner, a pet or a health condition that puts the shelter out of their reach.
Cashell, who spent 10 years homeless as he battled addiction, stressed such a project is critical.
"People without shelter die," he said. "I can’t stress this enough. These are human beings who actually die."
The group is on the hunt for land and has its eye on three parcels already owned by the city of Reno.
The city is already considering a second homeless shelter. Councilman Paul McKenzie suggested both the shelter and the tiny home village could be built on the same site.
Councilwoman Neoma Jardon has been pushing for a tiny home project, saying she'd like to see it get off the ground within 90 days.
"The homeless shelter is full and the overflow shelter is overflowing," she said.
That could be difficult, however. Reno's building and zoning codes don't allow for such dwelling units.