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Nonprofit plans to house SLO's homeless; all it needs is land

Becky Jorgeson, founder of Hope’s Village of SLO, was showing off this cabin at Home Depot in San Luis Obispo. She hopes to build villages of these tiny homes around SLO County.
Becky Jorgeson, founder of Hope’s Village of SLO, was showing off this cabin at Home Depot in San Luis Obispo. She hopes to build villages of these tiny homes around SLO County. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The tiny cabin on wheels occupying a few parking spots at Home Depot in San Luis Obispo drew a few stares Tuesday morning.

As several people stopped to peer at the small mobile home, Becky Jorgeson gave a brief tour inside: quilt-covered bed, a desk with two chairs, and a closet, currently filled with clothing that she’s been giving away to those in need. Two baskets on the desk contained socks and toothbrushes.

“We’re going to serve the people on the streets who aren’t able to get other services,” said Jorgeson, president and founder of Hope’s Village of SLO.

The nonprofit organization’s goal is to create a self-sustaining community of tiny homes in various parts of San Luis Obispo County, starting in or around San Luis Obispo. The idea is to augment existing services, not compete with them, Jorgeson said.

A village of 30 small, solar-powered dwellings could house about 50 adults in a drug-and-alcohol free space with a “common house” where residents could cook, shower and wash their clothes.

The village would have private security and a council of residents who would meet regularly, Jorgeson said.

What the group needs, however, is land. Jorgeson is looking in and around San Luis Obispo for about 5 acres on which to cluster the tiny homes, the common house and additional space for a garden and a workshop where residents could start small businesses such as refurbishing furniture.

“At night people can have a private spot and close their door and lock it,” Jorgeson said, “and during the day they can work on the site, water a garden, walk a dog.”

She’s hoping that a donor will step forward and offer some property, or that she could enter into an inexpensive, long-term lease.

So far, Hope’s Village has constructed one model home; a 7-by-11-foot cabin that cost about $3,900 to build. Jorgeson hauled it around to various locations Tuesday, including Home Depot, where she’s interested in pursuing a grant through the company’s “Team Depot” program.

It’s hard to say how much money the organization needs to raise to build its villages, since many of the materials and labor have been donated. It currently has $18,500, which could go toward building or renovating a common house and paying liability insurance for a village of tiny homes.

In the meantime, the organization’s other project, RVs for Veterans, is still going strong. The organization, which passes on donated recreational vehicles to homeless veterans, just received its 37th donation. For more information, visit www.hopesvillageofslo.com.

“The concept is a low-cost grassroots thing,” Jorgeson said. “There are so many people on the streets who don’t need to be. So many vets, so many seniors. We want to help.”

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