Grassroots Solutions to Homelessness

 


In response to the increasing criminalization of homelessness and rising numbers of our neighbors pushed onto the streets from one end of the Colorado to the other, the faith community is leading the movement for self-governed, sanctioned villages developed with and for people experiencing homelessness.

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In early 2017, we co-founded Colorado Village Collaborative alongside partners at Denver Homeless Out Loud, Beloved Community Mennonite Church, Bayaud Enterprises, and the Denver Catholic Worker. CVC exists to initiate and invest in the development of resident-led villages. CVC offers a platform for bringing resources across sectors of the community to address the current housing crisis by producing housing that is low-cost, attainable for all, quick and easy to build, community centric, environmentally sustainable, and that hold empowerment and self-governance of villagers at its core. The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado continues to serve as fiscal sponsor for CVC.

Through our continued leadership within CVC, and by offering consulting support to cities across the state, we are committed to scaling this rapidly deployable, highly dignified approach to ending homelessness.

 

Our Convictions

Homelessness Wasn’t Caused by Homeless People

It’s age old wisdom: your diagnosis leads to your prescription. For better or worse, the former always leads to the latter.

Everyone starts with presuppositions. And those foundational commitments shape how you go about making a diagnosis. We feel it’s best to just be up-front about ours. Our effort to identify the causes of homelessness are rooted in three key presuppositions and their corresponding methodology:

  1. Attend to power dynamics: listen to those marginalized by an injustice.

  2. Think in systems: analyze social structures.

  3. The present is a product of the past: look to history.

In reverse order, those commitments lead us to a few core opinions about why so many people are homeless in America:

History

We did not always have mass homelessness in this country. It began when the economy polarized and government support for housing was slashed.

Income and wealth inequality shot up to pre-Great Recession levels since the 1970s -- particularly for people of color -- at the same time funding for public housing all but disappeared (see graph). Housing and land values, however, have continued to appreciate. 

Social Structures

A chronically homeless person in the US can expect to live between 42 and 52 years. By comparison, Sierra Leone, which ranks last among nations for life expectance, has an average of 50. Health care professionals have begun referring to these egregiously inequitable outcomes as structural violence. The bodies of poor people are physically damages by social systems that have been inadequately designed to care for vulnerable people.

Increasingly, unjust designs in housing, health care, and economic opportunity are compounded in US cities by policies that criminalize the poor forced into public spaces (Denver's camping/survival ban is a tragically typical example). Invariably, discriminated groups -- Black and Indigenous people, LGBTQ people and particularly trans, those who have experienced domestic abuse -- are disproportionately impacted.

Voice of the Oppressed

While HUD emphasizes that homelessness should be "rare, short-live, and non-recurring," we believe it should also be survivable and dignified. People experiencing homelessness have been asked to give up their voice, their human rights, and their very ability to exist. 

People living on our streets consistently call for a recognition of their humanity. They ask for respect, for the basic things they need to survive, and for supports that free them from houselessness and poverty that still treat them like adults with gifts to offer. 

Collectively, these insights led us to the integrative solutions tiny home villages embodie: housing that centers human dignity, empowerment through self-governance, and design solutions that are low-cost, quick, environmentally sustainable, and community oriented.

Ways to Engage

  • Invite us to consult with your community on implementing a self-governed village
     

  • offer congregation-owned land or other properties available for 2+ years to host a village
     

  • become a village congregation Sponsor
     

Email: nathan@interfaithallianceco.org