OAKLAND (KPIX) — An innovative East Oakland housing solution is gaining international attention as the country’s first youth-let tiny homes village that opened this year.
Colorful murals greet visitors to Tiny House Empowerment Village. A warm welcome home for Ashley Jaggers and her dog.READ MORE: Steph Curry Closes In On 3-Pointers Record As Warriors Top Blazers
“It kind of makes you excited to see it when you walk in. It’s like this place is so cool,” Jaggers said.
Each home is a little shorter than an RV. Jaggers was among the first to move in months ago. She was homeless in Oakland for more than two years.
“I used to live under the underpass, in a makeshift tent, in a car,” she explained.
The East Oakland village houses unsheltered people aged 18 to 25. The once-vacant lot is now a fenced-in community with 25 tiny homes, a shared kitchen, community area and showers.
Each unit comes with a Murphy bed that folds into a desk, a laptop, WiFi, and electricity.
Village manager Angel Griffin says residents get more than a roof over their heads. The residents living there get a new start.
“It just gives them a sense of independence and the guidance of saying, ‘Okay, I can do this on my own,'” said Griffin.
Residents must participate in the Youth Spirit Artworks program. The Berkeley-based nonprofit provides job training, health insurance, wraparound services, and art classes to promote healing.READ MORE: Berkeley Police Arrest Convicted Sex Offender For Allegedly Accosting Teens, Claiming To Be Police Officer
Residents pay a third of their income on rent, and can stay in the tiny homes for two years while they get on their feet.
Youth Spirit Artworks founder Sally Hindman says the nonprofit’s job trainees created the vision for the village several years ago and led the process from planning to prototype.
“They were the decision makers. They were the brilliant leaders in everything,” Hindman beamed.
Youth leaders got help from 3,000 volunteers from dozens of interfaith congregations, schools, and businesses. They built and painted the murals.
The $1.3 million project is funded by city grants, a GoFundMe campaign, and donations of materials.
“It’s an amazing model of what a community can do when it decides it’s going to tackle a problem,” Hindman said.
And the world is watching.
“We’ve had calls from Germany, and emails from Romania,” she said.
Here in the Bay Area, talks are underway with several cities to build the next 75 tiny homes in the East Bay.
For Jaggers, she finally enjoys a safe, serene environment to study online at Laney College.MORE NEWS: 'This Is The Worst Time' – Half Moon Bay Merchants Blast PG&E Utility Work, Highway 92 Backups Before Holidays
She plans to be a social worker so she can open doors for others who also need a home — and a hope — for their future.