Local organization Youth Spirit Artworks, or YSA, met with Aboubacar Komara, an alumnus of UC Berkeley’s architecture program, to collaborate with his tiny house project based in Guinea, and voted to create a sister relationship at its Friday meeting.
Despite recent setbacks in a plan for their initial “tiny house village” — miniature residences in a community with on-site access to vocational programs — YSA hopes to expand the impact of its projects through the collaboration to help achieve its goals.
YSA is a nonprofit arts program that provides homeless and low-income Bay Area youth with arts and employment training. The goal of YSA’s tiny house village parallels Komara’s own project titled Kaloum Bankhi, which seeks to address overcrowding in Kaloum, a slum in Guinea.
“The main part of our collaboration is exchange,” Komara said. “We need to make a unique architecture and unique design to solve problems. … People need homes now.”
Using sustainable design and locally sourced materials is a practice Komara emphasizes with Kaloum Bankhi, for which he received the Judith Lee Stronach Baccalaureate prize and $25,000. Through design collaboration, Komara hopes to help create tiny houses that are “both part Guinea and part here, the Bay Area.”
YSA first unveiled its tiny home prototype in October 2017. The organization plans to build 10 to 12 others by the end of April 2019 in order to establish a youth tiny home village, according to Reginald Gentry, the YSA social media leader. For Gentry, the topic of homelessness is not a distant problem that the tiny house village seeks to address but a very personal issue that has affected close friends and members of YSA.
“With homelessness being the biggest crisis I’ve seen — being at YSA for a little over three years — the many disadvantages homeless youth have and being a stigmatized demographic, it’s really fulfilling helping out people,” Gentry said.
YSA Executive Director Sally Hindman said members, many of whom lived in a shelter for two years, draw from their own personal experiences with homelessness to construct the tiny house village.
Although YSA came close to obtaining a nearby salvage yard to construct the tiny house village, the owner of the site backed out, leaving YSA searching for another space, hopefully still in Berkeley, according to Gentry. If built, the tiny house village would be the first of its kind for homeless youth, spearheaded by youth that have been impacted by homelessness.
“People that understand or experience something are the best at coming up with solutions for those problems,” Komara said. “I think having homeless youth design the homes, they understand the problem and know what solutions to create.”