Tiny homes, big solution: 4 formerly homeless find housing thanks to new program in Castro Valley

CASTRO VALLEY, Calif. (KGO) -- A program launched by First Presbyterian Church in Castro Valley is offering discounted transitional housing to get homeless neighbors into permanent housing. The first four tenants moved in on Thursday.

"Sleeping in it, eating in it, driving to work, coming home -- my home was my Jeep for two-and-a-half years," said Patricia Soares.

But today is a new day and Soares is no longer homeless. She is one of the first four residents moving into one of six tiny homes, just 150 sq ft, constructed in the parking lot of First Presbyterian Church.

The idea was a grassroots, community effort several years in the making.

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"It's not just numbers or an idea, but it's people's lives that are going to be changed," said Chizu Buckalew, Director of Homeless Services and Creative Housing Solutions, First Presbyterian Church.

At a ribbon cutting Thursday morning, the first four tenants were emotional over the idea of ending their cycle of working every day and being homeless every night.

Josephine Angel, a rideshare driver and a mother of a four-year-old daughter, is grateful her daughter will now have stable housing.

"Don't ever give up hope," said Angel. "There's a silver lining."

Each home includes a futon or bunk beds (for units designed for two people), a cooktop stove, microwave, dining space, a full bathroom, and heating and cooling. Several items like linen, pillows, even food was donated from several community groups.

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Residents will be required to pay a small, graduating monthly rent.

Buckalew explained residents will pay $200 for the first four months of their stay, $400 for the following four months, $600 for the next four months, and $800 for the remainder of the 18 months.

After utilities are taken out of the monthly rent, the rest will go towards a fund for residents to tap into once they move out at the end of their stay. That money will then be used to help residents pay for a security deposit, first and last months' rent and other cost in finding permanent housing.

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Each resident must have a job making at least $1200 a month and is screened by the church.

"This is gonna bring the cost down, but also the size down to what can be affordable, easily maintained," said Tom Flemming, CEO Lifeline Housing. As one of the building partners who came up with the design of the tiny homes Flemming supports this transitional approach with a smaller footprint and graduated pricing over traditional subsidized housing options.

Now, these residents are looking forward to making this tiny house a home.

"Can't wait to take my shoes off and sit down on my futon - I'm home!" said Soares.
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