Cabin community fever

After years of advocating for tiny houses, First Step Communities finally has permission to build some for homeless youth

This story has been expanded from print.

Sacramento city leaders last month approved a small cabin community for young homeless adults, the first part of a multifaceted shelter strategy set to roll out over the coming months.

With the Feb. 18 vote, First Step Communities can now erect 24 cabins for 48 individuals on a vacant lot next to St. Paul Church of God in Christ in north Sacramento. Estimated to cost $7.6 million over two years, the project will include restrooms, showers, meals, laundry services and case management.

Sarah O’Daniel, Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency’s director of homeless innovations, told council members there was a reason to kick off the city’s five-point shelter plan with a youth-centric focus.

“This is a very vulnerable population, many have suffered significant trauma,” O’Daniel said. “They have a hard time adjusting to sleeping in regular shelters with adults. … This is a young population. If we help them stabilize now, they’re less likely to be chronically homeless in the future.”

St. Paul pastor Larry Joyner said his congregation is ready to step up and help. “We need to do something to make this happen,” Joyner told the council. “I’d appreciate it if each one of you would vote [in favor], so we have the opportunity to change lives, and not just talk.”

The Sacramento City Council approved this phase of its shelter strategy. Motel conversions, new permanent supportive housing, a scattered-site shelter and parking lot where families will be allowed to sleep overnight in their cars are also in the works.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg took a moment to acknowledge the local champion of the tiny homes movement, First Step Communities executive director Stephen Watters.

“In some ways, with this vote today, we will be launching Stephen Watters’ vision,” Steinberg said before turning to the man himself. “I really appreciate that you’ve hung in there through thick and thin.”