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When it comes to advocating for Denver’s growing homeless population, the Colorado Village Collaborative (CVC) thinks we can do better than simply putting roofs over heads. The organization’s new Women’s Village development—a cluster of 14 tiny homes available for free to single cis- and transgender women who are experiencing homelessness—focuses on trauma-informed design and community involvement in order to make a lasting impact on residents’ lives. “We want these homes to be transformational,” says Dorothy Leyba, CVC’s tiny-home village manager.
And Beloved Community Village—CVC’s first tiny-home initiative, which started in 2017—proves they can be: All 12 of Beloved’s original residents either secured jobs or went back to school after nine months in the homes. CVC hopes that the new village—which opens this month on the future site of the Clara Brown Commons affordable-housing complex in Cole (the tiny homes will stay until construction begins in two years)—will have a similar success rate. “We see a lot of resources for families or single women with children, but when it comes to a woman on her own, there aren’t a lot of options,” Leyba says. “We wanted a space dedicated to helping this underserved group heal.”
Each 96-square-foot home incorporates design elements that create a sense of safety and homey warmth. Lavender, mint, and soft yellow interior paint colors conjure a soothing atmosphere; skylights welcome in natural light; and raised garden beds sit outside each unit. Even the homes’ positioning serves a purpose: The dwellings face what Leyba calls “the heart of the community”—a common area where residents will share and maintain a kitchen, bathrooms, washing machines, and a living room, and even enjoy group dinners post-pandemic.
Leyba hopes that sense of community will stretch beyond the Women’s Village. To that end, two members of the Cole neighborhood serve on the committee that selects new tiny-home residents as vacancies arise, the first of many efforts to engage existing neighbors. And while residents can stay in the homes as long as necessary, Leyba says, “we hope a supportive community will help these women heal and succeed.”
By the Numbers*
6,104: The number of people experiencing homelessness in the Denver metro area in January—a 6-percent increase from 2019 and a nearly 15-percent increase from 2018.
1,561: The number of those people who were unsheltered.
33%: The percentage of Denver’s homeless population that are women or transgender.
*According to the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative Point-In-Time Report, an annual survey that collects data on homeless persons within the Denver Metro region.