St. Paul approves six tiny homes for the homeless near Lake Fallen – the Twin Cities

A small neighborhood of six mobile rental homes is expected to open near Lake St. Paul in Fallen Lake this summer—the efforts of a research fellow at the University of Minnesota who has set out to explore issues of homelessness.

Six years ago, Gabriel Claudus looked at the costs of homelessness on health care systems in terms of emergency admissions. Her findings alarmed her and spurred her to action.

It is now about to open its first “holy settlement”. Each of the six homes spans less than 300 square feet and cost nearly $60,000 to construct.

“It’s the cheapest affordable housing in our entire state,” Claudus said Wednesday.

Gabriel Claudus, co-founder of Settled, talks about the features of a tiny house at the Mosaic Christian Community in St. Paul on Monday, August 31, 2020. He settled at the time suggested 12 homes for the homeless on his church property in Forest Lake. Six more will be built for Missionals, the people who will live in the stable community and help the formerly homeless navigate life. So far, six units have been approved at the St. Paul site under a city zoning study approved in June 2022. (John Autey/Pioneer Press)

Claudus, who spent time in a community of more than 300 tiny homes in Austin, Texas, for her doctoral research, recreated the same experience in miniatures, so to speak, in the Minnesota capital.

On Wednesday, after four years of recurring frustration with the city in detail, and tears in its eyes, Claudus and her nonprofit organization—Settlement—received major zoning approval from St. Paul City Council.

work to be done

There is still work to be done with the city’s Department of Safety and Inspection, but the goal is to install six homes on wheels, each measuring 200 to 300 square feet, on a wooded hill slope owned by the Mosaic Christian community on the 500th block of East Wheelock Parkway. Claudius hopes the six small houses will be occupied this summer.

Her tenants—three working professionals and five individuals with long-term homelessness, including a homeless couple—signed up and waited. At a time when housing prices are at record levels and homelessness is on the rise, organizers are calling the “holy mosaic settlement” tiny homes that are past their due date.

“Who better than the Church to say… We will love you as you are?” Claudus said, her face flushed with emotion. “Church land is already tax-free. It is really untapped land.”

Claudus said Settled has found stable professionals willing to relocate to the new small neighborhood alongside the chronically homeless. Her research found that many homeless individuals “have experienced a massive and catastrophic loss of family, and loss of community. … Our model is unlike any other in the nation, because we have ‘intended neighbours’.” It makes all the difference. This is the secret sauce that makes people They feel wanted and loved.”

Among the future “willful neighbors” are a husband and wife – he’s a civil engineer, she’s a hospital nurse – and in another unit, Rose Larson, pastor of Open Door Church in Maple Grove. A little over a year ago, Larson moved out of her rental unit in North Minneapolis and moved in with her sister in preparation for her move into a tiny home among the former homeless.

It’s a reason Larson – who has been handing out sandwiches to the homeless on the streets of southern Minneapolis – has always been a cherished one. You have completed the training provided by Community First! A small village in Austin, Texas, which has about 500 residents.

“God said what you did to these least of my brothers, you did for me,” Larson said Wednesday, standing in front of the rooms of St. Paul City Hall with a beaming smile. My life is better and more full in relationships with people experiencing homelessness. People should know, they should belong and have a purpose.”

Defend before he defends you

Reverend Jeff O’Rourke, who founded Mosaic Christian Society a decade ago with his wife, said other housing efforts fail because they leave individuals with chronic difficulties to fend for themselves. Each resident of the sacred mosaic settlement will be paired up with a “friend of a friend,” a church member who can help guide them or just lend an ear in difficult times.

This includes advocates like Fred Ojimachi, a member of Woodland Hills Church in Maple Grove, who has worked with a 27-year-old future resident named Allen who has been homeless since he was 18.

Help Ogimachi Allen – an avid flutist – get an email address, sign up for public help he didn’t realize he qualified for and look for opportunities to play the flute like open houses in a church.

Rather than seeking to hide the homeless, the mosaic model hopes to integrate them into the neighborhood. Tenants must sign a charter showing that they understand the expectations of living in the community. Rents, which range from $200 to $300 a month, can be partially offset by doing work for the church or nearby homeowners, such as stripping and mowing.

“I love the ‘community first’ approach,” O’Rourke said. “There is an incredible support network around each resident, with access to all kinds of different relationships, some through the church community, some through other agencies. There are a lot of things that can provide housing. But surrounding them with friendships and relationships, and only brothers and sisters they can live with, is one of the missing pieces.”

Division approvals, building codes prove difficult

Claudus acknowledged that winning city ordinance and zoning and building approvals to install tiny homes wasn’t easy, and there are still several steps involved.

The Settled Group once proposed a collection of up to 18 small homes, including 12 for the homeless and six for “dispatchers,” or intentional neighbors, in Forest Lake. This project has been suspended since the beginning of the epidemic.

The zoning approvals granted Wednesday were submitted by St. Paul City Council under a temporary, or “interim,” ordinance that orders consideration of planning commission zoning for “unconventional housing products” based on the “demonstration” housing project.

The goal is to one day adopt permanent amendments to the zoning law relating to “pocket neighborhoods” or “rural communities,” ideas set forth in the City Master Plan 2040 and a study of zoning 1 to 4 housing units.

In previous discussions with the city, settled regulators were informed that the city’s current zoning law would not allow a small cottage, and that proposed building methods did not meet the criteria for permanent single-family occupancy under the state’s 2020 housing laws. After some digging, the city found that the units could They meet the standards for temporary living quarters, much like camping or seasonal use recreational trailers.

“We’re not clear yet what certification or standard the mosaic camper trailers are built under,” Susan Donovan, a spokeswoman for the St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspection, said in an email. “(It) is not a state building law because they have wheels. There is a building permit request to change use from a ‘picnic area/playground’ to a ‘camping yard’. We look forward to working with them to obtain more information as they move through the permit-to-approval process.”

Among other requirements, the camping area must be licensed by the Minnesota Department of Health, and receive site plan approval from the Safety and Inspection Department for the recreational camping area. Residents must have access to potable water and electrical utilities at all times, and the site must be secured independently of the Mosaic Church property. Other requirements speak of adequate parking, lighting and emergency vehicle access.

Except for the loft space, the unit area cannot exceed 400 square feet.

The temporary decree gained the approval of all six council members present. Council member Nelsey Yang was absent on maternity leave. The site is located within Council Chair Amy Brandmoen’s precinct, Suite 5.

“We are very excited that we have come to this point, and we thank you for this work and your commitment to it,” Brendmoin said Wednesday, addressing Clowdus ahead of the 6-0 vote.

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