Community Roots Collaborative, a nonprofit developer of permanent, affordable tiny homes for people exiting homelessness in Clark County, has joined forces with Amerigroup Washington, a coordinator of Medicaid managed care health insurance benefits.
Together, the two organizations plan to innovate solutions and collaborate on efforts that will help people experiencing homelessness in Southwest Washington overcome barriers to resources.
“It’s important for Community Roots Collaborative to develop strong relationships and collaborations in our community,” said Dan Whiteley, Community Roots Collaborative board president. “Amerigroup has been a huge advocate of our model and mission. We truly appreciate Amerigroup’s support as we find that permanent housing and good health and wellness go hand in hand.”
To kick off the partnership, Amerigroup Washington provided Community Roots Collaborative with a $10,000 gift this month to help the nonprofit provide wraparound services, resident advocates and a gazebo for the residents of Fruit Valley Terrace.
Fruit Valley Terrace is a community of 21 tiny homes at 1901 N.W. 69th Circle in Fruit Valley that was developed by Community Roots Collaborative and Wolf Industries Inc., a modular homebuilder located in Battle Ground. The site opened in 2021 and now houses 39 residents.
Each tiny home is around 400 square feet and includes water, electricity, and a washer and dryer. Tenants pay rent and utilities on their tiny homes, but the cost is low — $650 for rent and roughly $50 for utilities per month — thanks to an affordable leasing model.
Wraparound services will include everything from education, employment, transportation, financial literacy, access to health care services and more.
The intersection of housing and health is part of what led to the partnership, according to Whiteley.
Evidenced-based data from several studies have demonstrated that people who are homeless have higher rates of illness and higher mortality rates than the general U.S. population, he said. In addition to providing privacy and safety, stable housing also serves as a place to recuperate from illness, store critical medication and observe a healthy lifestyle.
“At the end of the day, health and wellness and housing security go hand in hand,” he said.
Anthony E. Woods, president of Amerigroup Washington, agreed.
“We are all in alignment that basic needs, such as stable, secure housing, must be addressed to help people take control of their lives, and achieve improved mental and physical health outcomes,” he said. “As an organization that has committed to removing barriers and ensuring equitable opportunities to improve health, Amerigroup looks forward to working with (Community Roots Collaborative) to build stronger communities and better futures.”
Community Roots Collaborative and Wolf Industries Inc. are now developing a second tiny home community at 3600 O St., the site of a dilapidated church in the Rose Village neighborhood. The church is being refurbished and will soon include 12 units of housing. Five two-bedroom, 600-square-foot tiny homes and five one-bedroom, 300-square-foot tiny homes are being constructed on the surrounding property.
The units inside the church will be supportive housing and the tiny homes will be independent. The church is expected to be completed in January of 2023; the tiny homes in the summer of 2023.
After that site is completed, Community Roots Collaborative hopes to replicate its model at additional sites in Clark County before expanding further into Washington, especially toward Seattle.
“This whole housing situation, I’ve broken it down in my head a million times, and the solution isn’t complicated — its building homes quicker and less expensive,” Whiteley said. “The state is looking at our model as the most affordable model in the state right now.”
The “secret sauce” to the organization’s success is buying properties that developers don’t want and building modular, he said.
“It took three years for us to figure out how to do this,” Whiteley said. “Now that we’ve proven ourselves, all our partners want to do this again.”
The biggest obstacle to completing future projects is land acquisition, he said.
“If we can partner with philanthropy groups, private citizens, anyone with dirt they’re willing to sell at a negotiated price, so we don’t have to negotiate with for-profit developers, that’s going to be the key to our future success,” he said. “Once the land can be identified, we can replicate our secret sauce and process of getting modular homes out of the factory and dropped on site. We have the construction and pre-construction figured out.”
To learn more about Community Roots Collaborative and to donate toward future projects, visit www.c-roots.org. To volunteer with the organization, visit www.facebook.com/CommunityRootsCollaborativeCRoots.
This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.