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Affordable housing is crucial to those who have been incarcerated for their successful reintegration back into society. Bridges to Hope is addressing this obstacle by developing a tiny home village that will provide permanent supportive housing for a total of 20 individuals and/or small families. These homes will range in size between 250-500 square feet, and each will have its own sleeping area, kitchenette, and bathroom with shower. Having their own individual home differs from communal living solutions by giving each person a feeling of worth, therefore a great buy-in to their community village.

This village will be a self-managed community of cost-effective tiny homes for people being released from incarceration or moving out of transitional housing. This will not only provide them with a place to live but also a place where peer support specialists will be working with them on their successful reintegration back into society. The tiny home village model provides a collaborative, community-based approach to building and sustaining permanently affordable places to call home. It's an innovative form of permanent supportive housing that ensures long-term affordability, eases displacement pressures, builds community wealth, and reduces the cost and environmental footprint of housing.  Bridges to Hope retains ownership of the underlying land, while residents manage the housing and improvements on the land. The result is a pathway to sustainable housing for people reentering society after incarceration.

This concept has the planning infrastructure in place. There is a team of interested stakeholders, city council members, city planning and urban development directors, architects, laborers, the department of corrections, probation, parole, attorneys, and executive directors who all will be playing a role in creating the first tiny home village in Lincoln, NE. The City of Lincoln and Bridges to Hope signed a purchase agreement for property that had been vacant for several years. This property has access to public transportation, grocery stores and necessary health and treatment programs. Hope Village is modeling other tiny villages throughout the United States and personalizing it to fit the Lincoln community.

The plan is to have those who are still incarcerated construct homes within the facilities. Upon completion, those who are at work release or work detail, will come to the property site and put the houses together. The benefits of utilizing those incarcerated for the labor is they receive a lucrative skill set and hands on training that can later be used in finding stable employment and it gives them something positive to do while they are serving their sentence. It also cuts costs. We will be contacting local stores such as Earl May Garden Center, Home Depot, Lowes, Menards, Best Buy and Sherwin Williams, and others, to request donations of material. There is also interest from an experienced local developer who is willing to invest in this project and provide us with his development resources.

The vision of Hope Village is to create a self-managed, permanent supportive community that consists of small, cost-effective homes for the reentry population. There will be a common building that allows for a community gathering space, large industrial kitchen, laundry facility and meeting rooms for support groups or other program related activities. Adjacent to the common building will be Bridges to Hope's donation center. This will allow for daily oversight of the village and will have great accessibility to the tangible items needed to furnish the homes.

The priority for residents selected to live in this community will be a group of applicants who are individuals, couples and small families who have been incarcerated and struggle to find landlords accepting of their background. However, we will open applications to the general homeless population should there be houses available. Referrals will be accepted from probation, parole, department of corrections, Mental Health Association of NE, other community organizations working with reentrants as well as accepting self-referrals. An application will be completed by the potential resident and an interview will be conducted prior to acceptance.

Bridges to Hope will provide staff for the Tiny Home Village. The Peer Support Specialist will provide one on one support and planning for each resident to ensure successful reintegration back into the community after incarceration. This will include life skills training, substance use and mental health support, employment support and future plans for stability. The Community Relations Coordinator will coordinate all aspects of Hope Village to include applications of residents, referrals, lease agreements, statistical maintenance and reporting, supervise all staff and volunteers, and participate as a guide for Village Council meetings. The Fiscal Agent will be responsible for all aspects of Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable and ensure all appropriate fees are being properly applied. This position will also assist in ensuring data is collected from participants. The Executive Director for Bridges to Hope will be instrumental in the development and oversight of the entire village.    

The Mental Health Association already provides peer support services for anyone in need and will assist Hope Village residents when necessary. Peer support services will be available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year.   Peers have the ability to support individuals when they need it, while also assisting them in navigating the behavioral health system, accessing providers, obtaining employment, and reintegrating back into the community.                                                                                                                                                     

Hope Village is a place for the reentrants to feel a sense of dignity and hope. If they are living in a community that is aesthetically soothing, it gives them a sense of pride and also a vested interest in seeing the community succeed. Living in a tiny house is much more comfortable and healthier than trying to live in a halfway house or a run-down apartment in a poor location. We want to create a community dynamic where everyone is building each other up and making each other a better person as a result. We also plan to include a garden area where the residents can learn to grow their own food.

There will be a Village Council so the residents will feel ownership in the community and have a desire to ensure their community stays safe, healthy, and clean. Representatives from the neighborhood association will be invited to join the Village Council and have input on policies, protocol and review of applicants. Bridges to Hope will join the neighborhood association so representatives of the village can also invest in what will be their neighborhood as well.

Hope Village will be considered permanent supportive housing, therefore, having no designated length of stay or specific plan of discharge. The land will be owned by Bridges to Hope and will require a monthly lease payment of $1 per square foot, based on the size of the home. The resident will be responsible for their own utilities. The goal is to provide affordable permanent housing, but we are also encouraging independence for the residents.

One tiny village with 20 housing units will provide permanent supportive housing for individuals and small families. However, the impact of housing these people affects more than just these residents. The impact will overflow into the city by first getting them off the streets and secondly by providing education, training, and support so they can become contributing members of society. Tiny villages play a crucial role in helping the city move unsheltered people from dangerous conditions on the streets and into a safer and supportive environment… and on a path to stable housing.

If you or someone you know might be interested in partnering with this exciting first for Lincoln, please email or call 402.420.5696 for more information.

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Hope Village renderings courtesy of Architectural Innovations

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