A Tiny Home of Their Own

Giving foster kids in Arizona who have aged-out of the system a fresh start.

Feb 13, 2020

(Courtesy of Pivot Inc)

The thing that foster kids want the most is a real home and not just temporary placements. That's why families that adopt older foster children or siblings to keep them together are so celebrated in the news and on social media.

That's because many older children are not adopted and stay in foster care. When these kids turn 18, they have to leave the system and go out into the real world. An organization in Arizona just made that much easier.

That's because some young people who recently left foster care will be given a new start in a community of three tiny homes that are being built just for them in an empty lot in Phoenix according to Fox10 Phoenix.

Building the tiny homes was the huge idea of Thrive AZ – an organization dedicated to foster care prevention, family reunification, and age-out kids – as a way to make sure that the 18-year-old teens do not become instantly homeless.

"We know that when we turn 18, we weren't ready to be on our own," Thrive Director Steve Vogel told FOX. "These kids just have no support. There's a breakdown in their family that causes this initially, so they don't have anybody to reach out to for that support. So they're basically out on their own."

The homes being built will have a living space, kitchen, bathroom, and a small front porch in a compact 240 feet (22.2 square meters). They will be small, even tiny, but they will be real homes that the teens can call their own.

"When we started seeing the tiny home project, we're realizing that this would be a great opportunity, a stepping-stone for them to have a small little space," said Vogel. "It'll be of their own but will still have three or four units together where they'll still have a little bit [of a] community there."

One graduate, 20-year-old Noah Hart spent most of his life in and out of foster care. He told Fox, "I live by myself, don't have to live with other people, and cleanliness, I can make it my own kind of thing, so I don't have to worry about others."

He will soon be moving into one of the tiny homes, but he has large plans for the future. Hart hopes to go to Arizona State University, WP Carey School of Business, and then to work on Wall Street.

In Oklahoma, Pivot Inc, a nonprofit organization that advocates and educates youth who lack stability in their lives was also concerned about teens that age-out of the foster care system. So concerned that they decided to build tiny homes (the first three are already completed) just behind their offices in Oklahoma City. The organization built and furnished the homes with the help of volunteers and in October 2019, the first three residents moved in.

The organization just received a National Housing Trust Fund grant to built 20 more homes that will be completed in June 2021. The goal is to build 85 units.

One 19-year-old named Carter  was really enthusiastic about the prospect of a real home according to Spotlight. In foster care since his mother died when he was ten, he was left homeless at 18. He went to a homeless shelter, couch surfed for a while and now he is staying with his sister's adoptive family.

“Having a bed’s gonna be different,” Carter, told Spotlight. “I sleep on a couch right now, so I’ve a lot of back problems from it.”

These tiny homes are free for the first two months and then rent gradually increases from $100 for 2-4 months to $150 if the youth stay for more than six months.  This is no cap on how long they can stay so that the youth can become independent and start their next life journey. 

There are other tiny homes projects planned for communities including Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Huntington, West Virginia. In other US cities, tiny homes are being built to house homeless people. There may not be a lot of space in these small structures, but they are a place that someone could call home.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.