Abstract: Tiny Home Communities for People Experiencing Homelessness: Individual and Neighborhood Impact (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Tiny Home Communities for People Experiencing Homelessness: Individual and Neighborhood Impact

Friday, January 17, 2020
Independence BR H, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Jennifer Wilson, MSW, IMBA, PhD Student, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Daniel Brisson, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Background and Purpose

Applied to the issue of homelessness, tiny home communities are considered a more inclusive, affordable, and dignified housing alternative for those without a home as compared to more traditional sheltering approaches. However, there is minimal evidence about the impact of tiny home villages on those living in and around such communities. This study examines the impact of one tiny home village (Village) in the mountain west on resident villagers as well as neighboring residents and businesses, investigating if such communities are an effective and feasible alternative housing option for addressing homelessness.


The study utilized a mixed methods approach and the following sources of data: quantitative and qualitative interviews with villagers (N=12) over three time points spanning nine months; quantitative and qualitative interviews with a random sample of residential neighbors (n=18) as well as a purposive sample of local businesses (n=5), and quantitative data on crime surrounding the Village.


Chi-square analysis revealed a statistically significant increase (p < .05) in employment/school status over the nine-month period. Paired-sample t-tests comparing timepoint 1 and 3 revealed a statistically significant decrease in the reported number of times residents had their belongings stolen (t(10) = 4.303, p < .01). Additionally, villagers reported statistically significant increases in the average experience of satisfaction (t(10) = 3.0, p < .05) as well as decreases in anxiety (t(10) = 3.079, p = .01) while living at the Village. At the neighborhood level, residential and business participants reported limited to no knowledge of the Village as well as feeling generally neutral to positive about the Village being situated near them. Analysis of local crime data before and after construction of the Village showed limited, if any, connection between Village development and changes in local crime. The triangulated data demonstrated that the Village had a neutral to positive impact on both Village residents as well as neighboring residents and businesses. These results directly challenge the NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) sentiment that often precedes the development of residences for people experiencing homelessness in a given neighborhood.

Conclusion and Implications

There is still much research to be done in this area and, given the number of new homelessness-focused tiny home communities being developed and operated across the country, it is essential to understand the impact of these villages on residents as well as surrounding communities. The triangulation of results from this study across Village residents and residential and business neighborhoods supports the overall conclusion that tiny home communities can be a viable housing option for individuals experiencing homelessness, bearing a potentially positive impact on the well-being of villagers themselves as well as the surrounding neighborhood. This study has begun to answer some important questions; however, several more have been raised, including identifying the best approaches for developing intentional and communal tiny home living, addressing the trauma of homelessness when living in a tiny home village, and identifying ways to scale these interventions.