Photos courtesy of Lisa Julia.
Could tiny houses help solve the homeless problem in Prince William County? One Woodbridge non-profit thinks so.
Woodbridge Helping Us Grow Strong (HUGS) is a non-profit that formed last year to assist the county’s homeless population.
According to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments there are 409 homeless people in Prince William County. 136 of them are children.
Woodbridge HUGS’s focus is not only on providing the homeless with essential goods, but housing as well.
“You give a homeless person the thing they need the most – a place to live…what they’ve found is when [the homeless] don’t have a safe place, that they’re sort of always on high alert,” said Annemarie Landry, a spokeswoman for Woodbridge HUGS.
According to Landry, providing permanent housing without pre-requisites to the homeless has an 80 to 85% success rating for keeping them off the streets, getting them sober, and finding them jobs.
And Woodbridge HUGS doesn’t want to put the homeless in just any houses – they think that tiny houses are a perfect fit, according to Landry. Tiny houses have become a popular housing option in recent years, and they’re also fairly practical in terms of cost and accessibility.
“While it would be wonderful to have a beautiful 100 room huge structure with an on-site case management structure…that’s not going to happen any time soon. Tiny houses is the answer. They’re cheap, they’re fast, and they give that security that they don’t have in a tent,” said Landry.
Landry said that county government isn’t doing enough to help deal with the number of homeless living in the county, and that the tiny houses are a viable solution.
“This is one of the top ten wealthiest counties in the United States, and these are human beings that deserve a safe place to lay their head at night,” said Landry.
Woodbridge HUGS has found a prototype for an 8×12 tiny home that they would like to use, that would cost around $3,000 per unit.
“We found what we want as our prototype…we want to put in a composting toilet, a skylight, [and] a generator, a door that locks, windows for cross-ventilation,” said Landry.
Before moving forward, Woodbridge HUGS will need to get approval from the county, after purchasing land, to zone the land for the tiny houses. They have begun speaking with county supervisors about making this happen, but in the meantime, the organization is focusing on fundraising and outreach events.
Recently the group held an event at Garfield High School on Smoketown Road in Woodbridge, placing 800 pieces of winter clothing on the fence that lines the school, for homeless people that need hats, scarves, and coats for the cold weather.
“I thought that a visual representation of the number of homeless people in our county would make a statement,” said Landry.
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