May 7, 2018

Oregon nonprofit builds tiny homes as a way to address its homeless problem

Get inspired by these three stories of innovation and ingenuity across America.

SquareOne Villages creates cost-effective tiny homes for people with low-incomes in need of housing. Photo via @tinyhousevillage on Instagram

Each week, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions individuals and organizations are creating in their communities. Want to share a story from your hometown? Email us at

Big plans for little homes: “Tiny houses” are all the rage right now, as the urge to downsize lifestyles has taken hold. But the trend holds promise for more than just those seeking to uncomplicate and declutter their lives: it’s also becoming a viable alternative in the toolkit to fight homelessness. Opportunity Village Eugene (OVE) is a tiny house community in Eugene, Oregon, that provides tiny houses for people who have been previously homeless. Securing a home in OVE isn’t just a handout; residents contribute $30, take care of maintenance and cleaning, and become an active part of the community. Residents can stay for as long as they like, but are encouraged to develop their own plans for more permanent quarters. The entire project of 30 tiny houses was delivered for $100,000 and an equal amount in materials and other in-kind support. The community has buy-in from the neighbors as well: survey results show that nearly 90 percent of those living and working nearby support the OVE program.

The renewal plan is dead; long live the renewal plan: A 43-year-old renewal plan for downtown Ft. Wayne, Indiana, is being scrapped … in favor of an updated renewal plan. The 1970s-era plan sought to revitalize the downtown area “through controlled redevelopment,” but the city council deemed the West Main Street Renewal Project obsolete. The new plan calls for things such as the removal of all overhead wires by burying utility lines (a move that also makes the grid more disaster resilient). A host of new developments have sprung up, such as The Landing, a riverfront development, and the Electric Works Project, aimed at making the area more business-friendly.

Jump-start for social entrepreneurs: INVANTI is a home for would-be social entrepreneurs. This startup “generator,” located in South Bend, Indiana, caters to those looking to start a social enterprise, even if the idea is only “half baked.” INVANTI recently graduated its first class of five from its six-month program. The outcome: four separate social ventures were put into action. The process begins by “working backwards,” co-founder Maria Gibbs told Forbes. There’s an in-depth research phase and then participants are asked to imagine the problem has been solved, who would benefit from that solution, and who would pay for it. Participants received a monthly “food and rent” stipend while attending the program. Once ideas are solidified into a plan of action, INVANTI helps fund a prototype. INVANTI prides itself on taking unformed ideas and seeing them to fruition; if someone already has a solid lock on an idea, this program isn’t for them. “We’re looking for people we call initiators—those who have the entrepreneurial itch, are ready to take a risk and start a company, but don’t have an idea for a venture yet,” the organization says on its website. In the end, INVANTI takes a nine percent equity stake in the company’s created by its graduates.

Brock N Meeks

Brock N Meeks is a contributor to The Renewal Project.
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