Samaritan House is looking toward tiny houses as a creative solution to house the homeless but has a big hurdle to clear before it does — finding the land on which to build.
Tiny house communities have come online in Petaluma and San Francisco and Samaritan House Chief Executive Officer Bart Charlow thinks a similar community to house the transitional homeless has merit in San Mateo County.
Many homeless people housed at the agency’s Safe Harbor Shelter in South San Francisco need transitional housing after completing a six-month stay, Charlow said.
“Many need more time. It can take someone 18 to 24 months to find housing even when looking out of the county,” Charlow said.
Besides, Charlow said, there is not enough affordable housing in the area to support individuals who are transitioning out of homelessness.
Rents in the area have climbed more than 45 percent in the past four years, according to a recent report by the San Mateo County Housing Authority
The report shows that average market rents have climbed for a one-bedroom unit by 47.4 percent to $2,425 a month in the past four years. For a two-bedroom unit, the average market rent is now $2,702, a 46 percent increase since 2011 and 13.2 percent increase since just last year.
Housing officials are even recommending that the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors consider tiny houses as a way to solve the area’s housing crisis.
Samaritan House is not pursuing tiny houses on wheels but rather to find an architect who can design a single-floor community with about 100 tiny homes, about 250 square feet each, with porches and green space on an acre or two, Charlow said. The homes would be fixed to the ground and less costly to build than traditional housing, Charlow said.
The community would be home to people on the way to stabilizing their lives with a full range of supportive services provided by Samaritan House, Charlow said.
Such a community would go a long way toward transitioning people out of homelessness, he said.
Although the county has more open space than most, there’s limited land on which to actually build, he said.
“We are lining up the land and funding but the hard one is the land,” Charlow said.
County and nonprofit officials have shown early support for the idea but Charlow cautioned it could be years before such a community is actually built.
Samaritan House is a private nonprofit organization that provides food, clothing, shelter, health care, worker resources and counseling services all free of charge to more than 12,000 individuals.
To learn more about Samaritan House go to: samaritanhousesanmateo.org.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102