A revolutionary way to care for the homeless

The main branch of the Salt Lake City library is a popular gathering place for the city's homeless population.  Photo by Isaac Riddle.
The main branch of the Salt Lake City library is a popular gathering place for the city’s homeless population. Photo by Isaac Riddle.

Urban centers have long been a gathering place for a region’s homeless population.  Because of this many cities struggle with how to handle large homeless populations, with some cities resorting to treating the homeless like criminals and those who attempt to offer help.

In recent years, Salt Lake City leaders have pursued a more humane approach to alleviating homelessness in the city through Utah’s Housing First initiative which provides housing for the chronically homeless.

Through the Housing First initiative, Salt Lake has been able to reduce the chronically homeless population by more than half.

But even with the city’s success, homelessness is still a struggle for many people.  Even after being provided housing, many individuals continue to be plagued by the same issues that originally led them to be homeless.

David Brooks of Revolution United, an organization that advocates for sustainability and social justice, wants to do more then provide housing for the homeless, Brooks wants to create “self sustaining community.”

Through Revolution United, Brooks plans on creating the Legacy Village, a community of tiny homes with shared kitchen, bathroom and public spaces for homeless residents.

“Our objective is to create holistically and involve as many solutions as possible to create a sustainable and resilient community,” said Brooks.

The village would be completely sustainable, using solar panels to power the village and urban farming as a way for residents to feed themselves.

According to Brooks, an advisory board made up of village residents, a city official and a police officer would be established to help the residents “take ownership of their community” while ensuring that Legacy Village residents are safe.

Brooks acknowledges that creating the village won’t be an easy process.   Funding for the project could take a few years.  In the meantime Revolution United is focused on more immediate solutions to help the homeless.

“We asked them (the homeless community) what was the biggest issue they were coming across and what we could do to help them, they unanimously voted for lockers.”

In response to the community’s feedback, Revolution United plans to build portable lockers where the city’s homeless can store their belongings for the day.  The lockers portability will allow the organization to serve different areas of the city on a regular basis.

The lockers are the first phase of the Legacy Village Project.  Brooks hopes that the success of the locker project will demonstrate Revolution United’s capacity to provide services that could help secure future funding for the village.

There is growing national support for tiny house villages for the homeless.  A village similar to the proposed Legacy Village opened in Madison Wisconsin on November 16, that was funded entirely through private donations.

Revolution United is holding a fundraising event on Friday, November 21 for the locker project.

Posted by Isaac Riddle

Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at isaac@buildingsaltlake.com.