Riverside building 10 tiny homes to shelter the homeless

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- An empty lot north of downtown Riverside will soon be filled with 10 small cottages designated for the homeless. It's part of the city's ongoing effort to solve the problem of homelessness.

"We've got to do this one by one," said Mayor Rusty Bailey at the proposed site at 2825 Mulberrry St., which is next to several residential homes.

"It's not going to be taking all 437 unsheltered homeless off our streets at once. It's one step at a time, and this is the next step in solving our homeless crisis."

The project will cost approximately $800,000, paid for in part by a grant from the California Department of Housing and Community Development. The homes will be built by Habitat for Humanity in partnership with the city of Riverside.

"We know there's not going to be one answer to this housing crisis," said Habitat for Humanity Riverside Executive Director Kathy Michalak, who believes this project is the first of its kind in California.

"There needs to be a variety of things, and this is just one."

Each cottage will be measure out at approximately 425 square feet, and have a bedroom, small bathroom, kitchenette and laundry area. Michalak said when the project was first discussed with neighbors, there was concern over the effect this kind of project would have on the neighborhood.

"At first there was pushback, and concern about 'those kinds of people' in our neighborhood," said Michalak. "(But) there's going to be rules for them to follow.

"(For example) there can't be 14 people in one house; it's just one person."

Eyewitness News spoke with a property owner right next door to the vacant lot where the affordable housing is planned.

"I was really against the project to begin with," said Mark Levi. "I wasn't sure how it was going to be managed. I wasn't sure who's going be in this development, what it's going to look like, etc."

But Levi said he's now welcoming the project, after receiving assurances from the city that there will be rules for those allowed to live in the new homes. Mayor Bailey said the homes are for lower-income residents, who will have to pay the affordable rent themselves.

"There are rules to live here. We're not just plopping an individual into a housing unit and saying goodbye. We're providing wraparound services to get them out of any situation they might be in, whether it be substance abuse or mental illness."

Bailey said the hope is that similar projects will be planned in each of the city's seven wards. If the project on Mulberry Street is approved by the Riverside City Council, construction could begin in a matter of weeks.

And according to Habitat for Humanity's executive director, it will happen quickly.

"Our goal is to put all 10 houses up in one day."
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