Tiny houses: A solution to homelessness in St. Cloud?

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The first "tiny house" in Minnesota built specifically to provide shelter for the homeless is ready to be occupied. But it doesn't yet have a home of its own.

A nonprofit group in St. Cloud arranged to have the 16-by-8-foot house (pictured above) built to become the residence of a man who's been homeless for three years, the Star Tribune reports.

Before that can happen, city officials need to change the zoning codes to allow a dwelling of that size.

According to the Star Tribune, permanent houses in St. Cloud must be at least 630 square feet, and the tiny house is only 128 square feet.

What's more, this tiny house was built on a trailer. Since it's on wheels it's considered a recreational vehicle, and the city doesn't allow people to live in an RV while it's parked or stored somewhere.

The St. Cloud Coalition for Homeless Men is looking for a place where the tiny house can be located. Once that's decided, the city will look at what zoning or building codes might apply.

The tiny house, which includes a small refrigerator, a two-burner cooktop, and a bathroom with a shower stall, was turned over to its occupant, Dave Erickson, Wednesday morning.

Erickson said the house means many things to him.

“I have a place to keep my stuff in where I can lock the door, privacy, all the amenities,” Erickson told the West Central Tribune.

Erickson was laid off from his job three years ago. Eventually he lost his apartment and lived out of his car, until he lost that as well. He met Tina Lamberts, founder of the homeless coalition, a couple years ago, according to the Tribune.

Lamberts' goal is to eventually "create a village of tiny homes in the St. Cloud area" to house people who are homeless, according to the coalition website; similar to ones that have been set up in Madison, Wisconsin and other cities.

St. Cloud's tiny house is on display this week at St. John's Episcopal Church, and it's possible it could remain in the church parking lot if it gets a special permit, according to the newspaper.

While St. Cloud was the ultimate destination for the tiny house, it was actually built by volunteers and high school students in the Willmar area.

Students from Willmar’s Area Learning Center alternative high school provided the elbow grease while working with the Youthbuild program of Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services, according to the Tribune.

Several businesses in the Willmar area donated materials or provided help to build the house, including Home Depot, Edina Realty and Gatewood Electric, the Tribune said. All told, the house cost about $7,000.

Brainerd was one of the first cities in Minnesota to allow the construction of tiny houses in certain neighborhoods when the City Council approved a zoning change last June.

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