- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 6, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An organization that helps homeless people has resumed pushing Des Moines to establish a village of tiny homes to help the homeless.

The Des Moines Register reports (https://dmreg.co/1YeE6W2 ) that the nonprofit Joppa wants to build about 50 homes of about 100 square feet each to provide transitional housing. Joppa officials say it would be a safe space for people seeking jobs, security and independence.

The village concept had gained some favor at City Hall. But plans hit a roadblock after a potential site in the River Bend neighborhood drew criticism from residents.

Joppa officials hope they can convince community leaders that a permanent village is a better solution to the homeless problem than repeatedly clearing out tent cities that soon reappear elsewhere.

“The city has made the choice to ignore this topic,” said Amy Hunold-VanGundy, a Joppa volunteer. “You’ve evicted 100 people (from camps). We need to know where they can go.”

Homeless campers typically pitch tents in small groups on public land near the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers. The camps eventually garner complaints when trash and human waste accumulate. Then, city officials post eviction notices and public workers clear the camps out.

“It’s sort of constant,” said Phil Delafield, director of community development with the city. “They should go into safe, secure sanitary houses. And the resources need to be provided. . moving them from shelter to woods to shelter is certainly not a viable option.”

Each of the homes Joppa wants to build costs about $5,000 each. They would be equipped with a secure door, windows, electricity, a bed, table, chairs and storage space.

“Don’t think Section 8 or a shantytown,” said Joe Stevens, the organization’s founder. “This is a planned community.”

Hunold-VanGundy says the community would specifically be designed for people who are looking for work and a change for stability.

“It’s all about independence,” Hunold-VanGundy said. “We’re trying to illuminate a path for them.”

In the Des Moines area, homelessness threatens more than 1,200 people, including those living in shelters or transitional housing, according to the Institute for Community Alliances.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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