As the cost of housing has continued to rise, the homeless crisis in America has become an increasingly critical issue – particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. America approaches 11.5 million cases of Covid-19, with infection rates continuing to rise nationwide. Without shelter and sufficient resources for medical and social safety during this crisis, many homeless people have contracted the virus. To combat this issue, cities are increasing the availability and size of homeless shelters as well as building more homes for homeless individuals to live in.
One notable project in Oakland is the Tiny House Village project led by Youth Spirit Artworks. The project was first started in 2016 as a youth-led campaign responding to “the crisis of affordable and accessible housing.” The goal of this project is to build tiny homes designated for homeless youth. Built by volunteers in the Youth Spirit Artworks organization, 22 tiny homes have been built so far. Even with the large amount of homes being built, input from youth has always been the main focus of the project.Youth have created the initial visions and designs of the homes and have continued to add their input to the project whether for the design of the kitchen or for the outlines of closets.
In addition to the volunteers’ visions, the experience of professional adult supporters has significantly supported the campaign. While youth created the initial designs and inspirations for the houses, adult volunteers including architects and contractors, have helped to turn these ideas into reality. Volunteers represent all ages and come from all around the Bay Area to contribute their free time to the cause. In fact, students from Oakland Tech have been actively involved in the building process for the past several months. All of these volunteers take on a variety of tasks on “Build Days,” which currently happen on Saturdays and Sundays. Volunteer tasks include building the frames of the houses, installing interior drywall and closets, making planter boxes, and completing other tasks throughout the construction process.
As the project is coming to a completion, finishing touches are being added to the houses and to the village site. Exteriors are being painted with murals, interiors of tiny houses are being finished, and walkways are being built to create a homey feel of the village. Volunteers continue to come every weekend to finish building the remaining tiny homes in preparation for the opening of the village. Within the next few weeks, homeless youth will begin living in the village and finally have a place they can call their own!
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