Oshkosh foundation wants tiny home village to house homeless families

2022-06-16 23:43:54 By : Mr. Long Hu

OSHKOSH – A proposed village could provide much-needed shelter and resources for families in Oshkosh.

The Oshkosh Kids Foundation wants 31 tiny homes to be built on the south side of West Packer Avenue between North Main Street and Jackson Street. It would provide homeless individuals and families a transitional space to stay while they gain life skills and work to secure stable housing.

The Plan Commission approved 9-0 a zone change for the site on Tuesday as well as general development and specific implementation plans.

The 3.57-acre village would comprise the tiny houses, a manager's house, a community center and other public amenities including gazebos, a field and gardens. Each home for guests is about 487 square feet. The cost for the entire project is estimated at about $4.5 million.

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The project is a partnership between the Oshkosh Kids Foundation, the Fox Valley-based nonprofit ADVOCAP and Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development. Wesenberg Architects is the developer.

WPHD Executive Director Todd Mandell said at the meeting that the project aligns with WPHD's mission to support community relations and development.

"Ultimately, the goal here is that this is transitional housing," he said. "They move here to be more stabilized. ... This is not designed to be permanent."

In its application to the city, developers said they hoped the site would add another option for homeless families to seek resources and add to the county's homelessness continuum of care, which aims to help those without homes get off the streets and move from one step to the next until they find long-term, stable living.

"The village offers independent housing to those in need along with amenities to provide a sense of community, social interaction and self-sustenance," the application said.

The Winnebagoland Housing Coalition reported 428 individuals received homeless services in February 2021 throughout the Oshkosh and Southern Winnebago County region.

The Oshkosh Kids Foundation in March received $570,000 toward the project's community center as part of a statewide Neighborhood Investment Fund that awarded $10.3 million in total to six Winnebago County homelessness projects.

The shared community center will provide gathering space with a kitchen as well as classrooms that will be used to teach life, financial and home management skills.

Those interested will have to apply to live in the village, which will include a background check among other requirements.

Oshkosh Kids Foundation Board President William Deppiesse said the site will have a full-time case manager on site working with families, a full-time manager who will live on-site, and property management staff. 

Additionally, the groups are working with the Oshkosh Police Department to have a police presence occasionally in an on-site office doing paperwork.

Police Chief Dean Smith said at the meeting that the goal is to build and establish relationships with the residents before they need them. The tiny village will be patrolled like any other residendial area in the city.

Developers said in the application that they chose the Packer Avenue site in part because of its location near "life-supporting" businesses such as St. Vincent De Paul, ADVOCAP and NOVA Counseling Services as well as it being along a bus route and near schools.

The site plans and zone change must now go to council for approval. Corey Wallace of Wesenberg Architects said they hope to be able to house folks in the tiny village by this winter.

Contact Katy Macek at kmacek@thenorthwestern.com or 920-426-6658. Follow her on Twitter @KatherineMacek.