A six-portable rental house micro-neighborhood near St. Paul’s Lake Phalen is due to debut this summer, thanks to the work of a University of Minnesota research fellow who set out to investigate homelessness concerns.
Gabrielle Clowdus investigated the impact of homelessness on healthcare systems in terms of emergency admissions six years ago. Her discoveries frightened her and prompted her to take action.
She’s about to open the doors to her first “Sacred Settlement.” The six dwellings are each smaller than 300 square feet in size and cost around $60,000 to build and install.
Clowdus said Wednesday, “It’s the least cost affordable housing in our entire state.”
Clowdus set out to reproduce the same experience in miniature in Minnesota’s capital city after spending time in a community of more than 300 small dwellings in Austin, Texas, for her dissertation thesis.
Clowdus and her organization, Settled, gained a critical zoning clearance from the St. Paul City Council on Wednesday, after four years of often stressful back-and-forth with the city on the details, and with tears in her eyes.
The goal is to install six homes on wheels, each measuring 200 to 300 square feet, on a wooded hillside owned by the Mosaic Christian Community in the 500 block of East Wheelock Parkway. There is still work to be done with the city’s Department of Safety and Inspections, but the goal is to install six homes on wheels, each measuring 200 to 300 square feet, on a wooded hillside owned by the Mosaic Christian Community in the 500 block of East Wheelock Parkway. Clowdus is optimistic that the six little dwellings will be filled by the end of the summer.
Three working professionals and five people who have been homeless for a long time, including a homeless couple, have signed up and are waiting. At a time when housing costs are at an all-time high and homelessness is becoming more evident, organizers say the “Mosaic Sacred Settlement” of small dwellings is long overdue.
Clowdus, her cheeks flushed with passion, added, “Who better than the church to declare… we will love you exactly as you are?” “Church property is already exempt from taxes. It’s land that’s been underused for a long time.”
Settled, according to Clowdus, discovered stable professionals prepared to cohabitate with the chronically homeless in the new micro-neighborhood. Many homeless people, according to her study, have “experienced a profound and traumatic loss of family, as well as a loss of community.” We are unlike any other model in the country because we have ‘intentional neighbors,’ which makes all the difference. That’s the key to making people feel wanted and cherished.”
A husband-and-wife combination — he’s a civil engineer, she’s a hospital nurse — and Rose Larson, the pastor of the Church of the Open Door in Maple Grove, are among the potential “intentional neighbors.” Larson moved out of her North Minneapolis rental apartment and into her sister’s house a little over a year ago in preparation for her transfer to a small home among the formerly homeless.
Larson, who used to pass out meals to the homeless on the streets of South Minneapolis, has long been a supporter of the cause. She’s finished the Community First! tiny home village’s training program in Austin, Texas, which has around 500 people.
“What you’ve done for the least of these brothers of mine, you’ve done for me,” Larson said with a beaming smile in front of the St. Paul City Hall chambers on Wednesday. “Being in connections with those who are homeless makes my life better and more fulfilling.” People want to be recognized, to belong, and to have a sense of purpose.”