Berkeley arts center starts construction on Tiny House Village for homeless youth

Sunny Shen/Staff

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On Saturday, Youth Spirit Artworks, or YSA, in partnership with more than 15 nongovernmental and interfaith organization such as Habitat for Humanity and Temple Beth El, began building a prototype for its Tiny House Village — a project that will eventually provide shelter for 100 homeless young people in the East Bay.

YSA is an organization with two locations in Berkeley that works to provide a safe space for youth to practice art and socialize. According to Executive Director of YSA Sally Hindman, the organization is planning for the first 14 tiny houses to be ready for move in late fall of this year.

The concept of Tiny House Village was developed to provide shelter for transitional youth, especially in the midst of the housing crisis. According to President of the Board of Directors of YSA Jackson Hardamon, there are about 1,000 homeless youths who live in Oakland and about 500 who live in Berkeley every year.

“Stable housing is the best thing we can give to them,” Hardamon said.

Each tiny house will have an inside square footage of seven feet and four inches by 10 feet, which, according to volunteer construction director Rolf Bell, will just meet the state requirements for the minimum size of a bedroom. They will each contain a loft bed, a desk, a chair, electricity, solar panels and a heating system.

On each village site, there will be a central kitchen, communal bathroom and central living space. Services such as peer counseling will also be offered to the occupants by YSA. An art space will be created in memory of Aaron Haynes Sanstad, who died last year.

“Even though he didn’t make it, we know he would have loved this village,” Hindman said.

According to Hardamon, a major focus of the YSA center and the Tiny House Village project is creating a sense of community.

For community organizing leader Jason Wilson, the building project is increasing his role in and sense of belonging to the center.

“I feel really empowered and important. I feel needed,” Wilson said.

The building project is set to happen in batches of about 12 homes at a time, according to Bell. The first unit is set to be shown to local church congregations, including the First Congregational Church of Berkeley, in hopes of gaining support and contributions for the project.

According to Hindman, the center is still looking for housing sponsors as well as housing captains to help build the houses.

“We’re seeking folks about all ages and abilities to help build the village and organize the community,” said Hannah Trumbull, the Interfaith Organizer for YSA.

According to Hardamon, the group is also working to expand the project to other towns and cities in California.

Contact Katherine Finman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC ‏.