Tiny home village for homeless thriving in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

Advocates say university study is proof tiny homes can be a solution to chronic homelessness

From the start, supporters have hoped Beloved Community Village would help people beyond the 13 residents who moved off Denver’s streets and into its 8-foot-by-12-foot tiny homes last July.

The village, 11 homes, a bathhouse, two portable toilets and a circular common building bounded by a brightly decorated chain-link fence at the corner of 38th and Blake streets, was meant to be a pioneer. It’s a pilot project designed to demonstrate tiny homes, arranged in a community where rules are set by the residents themselves,  should be part of the solution to combating homelessness in Denver.

It’s had its challenges. Two of the original residents returned to the streets after their neighbors asked them to leave for violating village rules. The village had to move about 200 feet in January — from one side of its lot to the other — at a cost of $25,000 because of now-changed city rules governing temporary residential structures. The city chipped in $10,000.

But Beloved has persevered. A year after opening, supporters are touting the results of a University of Denver study of the village as proof it is improving lives, both for its residents who were chronically homeless and in the surrounding community.

“Unfortunately, the residents here have had to be the guinea pigs, but they have helped us sort out some of the issues that will help improve the model as we scale into the future,” Cole Chandler, a member of the Colorado Village Collaborative, said. “We intend to see dozens of these villages across the metro area.”

The study assessed the village from its opening on July 21, 2017, through April. Among the key findings:

  • Of the 12 original village residents who participated in the study — one person declined — 10 remained housed through April. It goes beyond the scope of the study, but those 10 people are still in stable housing today, Chandler said,

  • Three residents moved out of the village into housing of their own. Two of them, a couple, saved up for their own apartment, Chandler said. A third person was approved for Section 8 rental assistance.

  • And all villagers — nine of whom were already working when they moved in — were either employed, in school or collecting disability, as of April. That fact also holds true today.

To read the full findings of the study, visit bartoninstitute.org/tiny-homes.