Tiny House Village to open 26 homes for Berkeley, Oakland unhoused youth in fall

Photo of trailer with artwork by spirit youth.
Virgil Warren/Courtesy
UC Berkeley junior Virgil Warren painted a mural featuring a panther on the side of a tiny house, a reference to the Black Panther Party being founded in Oakland.

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Youth Spirit Artworks, or YSA, plans to open the United States’ first youth tiny house village this fall for unhoused youth in Berkeley and Oakland.

YSA provides “tiny” houses that are equipped with one 8-foot-by-10-foot bedroom with electricity and furnishings. Upon completion, the youth tiny house village will consist of 26 houses in Oakland. Residents will be able to stay for a two-year period while they participate in YSA and move toward financial independence.

“The Tiny House Village project was initiated by young people that were living in the youth shelter back in 2016,” said Sally Hindman, YSA founder and current executive director. “They initiated the project in order to respond to their passion that there needed to be way more affordable housing for young people available.”

Designed by youth leaders, a tiny house takes about six weekends and $12,500 to complete. Hindman added that the spirit, intention and quality of each house is more important than going fast.

UC Berkeley junior Virgil Warren worked with YSA a few weeks ago to design and submit murals to paint on the tiny houses.

“We had to find something that was inspirational, that was happy, that someone would want to live in, but also that spoke to the issues that affected the youth on some level,” Warren said.

The mural he worked on was of a black panther and the Pan-African flag, a reference to the Black Panther Party being founded in Oakland, Warren added.

The Tiny House Village project is receiving $78,000 in funds from the city of Berkeley and a $360,000 grant from the city of Oakland, according to Hindman.

YSA project coordinator Jilly de la Torre said volunteers will be setting up yurts that will act as common spaces with dining areas and kitchens, as well as on-site communal bathrooms and showers. De la Torre added that she is also working with the community on getting bikes and furniture for individual residents.

According to de la Torre, the Oakland site has been in the works for three years, and YSA originally pursued a site at the Ohmega Salvage Yard in Berkeley. Hindman added that after facing neighborhood pushback and failing to secure the site after a year and a half, YSA decided to look for a site in Oakland instead.

“It was very challenging to find a site that wanted to host us,” de la Torre said. “People want to support projects like this but when it actually comes to having it in your community, oftentimes people turn a little less supportive.”

According to de la Torre, YSA has continued to look for a site in Berkeley closer to its program as part of its long-term goal to create “100 Homes for 100 Homeless Youth” in the East Bay in the next 10 years.

Contact Catherine Hsu at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @catherinehsuDC.