Volunteers put the door on one of the 15 tiny homes that was completed last spring.
Volunteers put the door on one of the 15 tiny homes that was completed last spring. (Courtesy of YSA)

Youth Spirit Artworks (YSA) is celebrating a long awaited accomplishment: After scouring the East Bay for a site for their Youth Tiny House Village, YSA has secured a site in East Oakland. The site, which was chosen by the City of Oakland in February, is at 633 Hegenberger Road, near the Coliseum. This is where the youth-led non-profit will put 26 tiny homes as well as a community center, a kitchen, showers, and bathrooms. The projected move-in date is July 2020. 22 youth are expected to move into the Tiny House Village, as well as four resident advisors. When it opens, it will be the first community of tiny homes for homeless youth in the U.S.

Youth Spirit Artworks has spent the last three years making plans for the village, and building the tiny homes. (Disclaimer: Youth Spirit Artwork is Street Spirit’s publisher.) Over the summer and fall of 2019, they built 15 homes with the help of over 900 volunteers. The remaining 11 homes will be built this spring with the help of individual volunteers as well as schools, businesses, and non-profit organizations such as the Rising Sun Opportunity Center, which is collaborating with YSA to train low-income young people and adults in construction.

We are trying to start something new’

Working groups are currently finalizing plans for the interior design of community spaces, bathroom buildings, and landscaping. Students from the University of San Francisco’s Architecture Department are currently working on creating the master plan for the village.

YSA staff and youth leaders are engaged finalizing the program model as well as the community agreements paperwork for youth accepted into the program.

Last spring, Jackson Hardemon—one of the Tiny House Village’s youth program directors—told Street Spirit that the objective for the village came from conversations with youth. The project started in 2017 when
a few of the youth mentioned that when they leave their shelter program there’s no other place to go. They were feeling forgotten and helpless, so YSA organizers decided to mobilize.

They first looked into using the Ohmega Salvage yard in Berkeley, however Hardemon says the community pushed back against the idea and they moved their sights to Oakland.

“Oakland was a lot more receptive towards this idea,” he said. “Honestly I think it was because we are trying to start something new, something different. It was a new solution for an ongoing problem with youth in Oakland too.

“We’re hoping it becomes a bigger message to pay attention to the younger adults that are still being affected,” said Hardemon, who emphasized that since this effort would be helping youth, it would aim to pre- vent future homelessness. “They have probably just as many problems as seniors do when it comes to housing security, job security, food security: you name it.”

Alastair Boone is the Director of Street Spirit.