Youth Spirit Artworks unveils tiny home prototype in Berkeley

Kayla Brown/Staff

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Youth Spirit Artworks, or YSA, unveiled the prototype build of a tiny house unit Saturday, the next step in its plans to build a tiny house village within 10 years.

YSA, a community job training program, has been working on the prototype tiny house since March, a project that is being constructed mostly by the hands of the youths who work with YSA. YSA Executive Director Sally Hindman said the goal is to build 100 homes in 10 years — 20 of those being tiny houses — for homeless youths in Berkeley.

“Our indirect impact is that we’re showing the community that we can do this,” Hindman said. “I’m saying really that we can make tangible gains in housing (the) homeless.”

The next step toward YSA’s goal is to build a handful of tiny houses, which will be settled in the back lot of YSA at 1740 Alcatraz Ave. Hindman said in a speech at the unveiling that YSA is working on purchasing the lot behind it as well to get more room for more tiny houses — so as to build a “mini village.”

Currently, YSA is raising funds to build the second tiny house, which will be put in the mini village. General contractor John Tre’ Brown III, who helped YSA build the tiny houses and teach youths how to build, said building the second tiny house will definitely take less time and less money given that the design-testing phase is over.

There will be an interview process for youths who want to live in the tiny houses in the mini village, according to YSA social media coordinator Reggie Gentry, who helped build the tiny house prototype. The process is to determine if it would be appropriate for the youths to live in the mini village, given that space is limited.

“It’s talking to the people in the situation that we want to help. We’re talking to people over by the ‘Here There’ signs,” said YSA community outreach manager Sean McCreary. “People need to be safe where they dwell — a tiny house should be a safe place.”

Along with screening for the mini village, McCreary said the interview process will be extended to the future 100 unit housing community, in order to keep out “people who are a danger to the community.”

Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Berkeley City Councilmembers Kate Harrison and Cheryl Davila all came to the unveiling in support of the tiny house program. City Council has been discussing tiny houses as a solution to the housing crisis for months.

“It’s very exciting — I think it’s an innovative way to create affordable housing,” Arreguín said. “We have more and more youth ending up on the streets due to the housing crisis. … We need housing for families, and we need housing for young people.”

Contact Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.