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Reno, Las Vegas Housing Advocates Thinking Small With New Projects

A welding torch cuts into a shipping container that will be turned into a modest home during a groundbreaking event Tuesday at Veterans Village in downtown Las Vegas.
Doug Puppel
A welding torch cuts into a shipping container that will be turned into a modest home during a groundbreaking event Tuesday at Veterans Village in downtown Las Vegas.

Nevada housing advocates are thinking small to address the big challenge of keeping people off the streets.

In Reno, a group of tiny homes — each with just 96 square feet of space — is being constructed to house the homeless. In Las Vegas, transitional housing organization Veterans Village has begun converting shipping containers into residential units.

Managing the city-supported effort in Reno is Northern Nevada HOPES, a community health organization that serves low-income clients.

The first 10 tiny homes at the Hope Springs development are under construction, with another 20 planned. The homes are going up in an area where there are existing services for the homeless — and come at an attractive price tag.

“They are $6,000, and that includes the furnishings,” Northern Nevada HOPES CEO Sharon Chamberlain told State of Nevada. “So from a cost perspective, that”s an amazing piece for having … a safe and comfortable place to lay their heads and store things while they are transitioning out of homelessness.”

It won't just be about the homes, Chamberlain explained. The tiny living spaces will be part of a whole village that will include 2,000 square foot community space.

“And that will include everything from a meeting space, like a family room type space, bathrooms, laundry, kitchen for folks who are in the village and would like to communicate and build community with each other,” she said.

The program is aimed at chronically homeless people who haven't had a permanent roof over their heads in 20 years or more. Chamberlain said they won't be charged rent but will be given access to all kinds of resources to help get their lives back on track.

“The idea is if we provide this really intense case management up front then we’ll be able to transition individuals then they’ll be ready and wanting to transition into more permanent housing in the community with less intensive case management,” she said.

Money for the program has come from around the community she said, church groups to the Rotary Club have donated. 

“I feel like there has been a very big shift in our community understanding that homelessness has an impact across our entire community," she said.

While the small houses will provide people a place to go, Chamberlain said the program won't really work without the next step of permanent supportive housing and affordable independent living options for people.

The shipping container project in Las Vegas has been a longtime dream for Veterans Village founder Arnold Stalk. He says a global glut of containers makes conversion into transitional housing an economical option.

Veterans Village breaks ground Tuesday on a 10-unit project that Stalk says will be a prototype for a larger development planned for downtown Las Vegas.

"It will be the precursor as a prototype to another 100 unit converted repurposed shipping container into housing," Stalk told KNPR's State of Nevada.

Stalk has been working to get the project off the ground for years. He said it makes sense to take containers that have piled up around the world and turn them into part of the solution to affordable housing. 

“We are way behind the curve on supply of what is a huge demand,” he said.

The container homes are completely self-contained and are permanent housing. All the money and labor to convert the containers have been donated by the community.

Like the village under construction in Northern Nevada, the shipping container homes will have access to services. The containers are part of the Veterans' Village 2 campus downtown. 

Stalk said there a crisis center and food pantry on site and access to all the services a person trying to get off the street and back into a home would need.

“We have the infrastructure to help people get off the streets permanently but what we don’t have is housing here,” he said.

He believes the shipping containers could be part of the answer to the nation's affordable housing problem. But for now, he wants all of Southern Nevada to come together to set specific targets to help end homelessness and to find ways to fund those targets.







Sharon Chamberlian, Northern Nevada HOPES CEO; Arnold Stalk, Veterans Village founder

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With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.