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Tiny Homes, Helping Break the Cycle of Poverty

New Development Helps Young Adults Find Stability

Sometimes, it just takes one person. One person to believe in you, to tell you you’re worth it and to show you how to make your dreams come true.

Working Fusion at Mill Street is doing just that by providing housing and resources to motivated young adults who happen to be housing insecure. This tiny village of tiny homes exists due to the efforts of parent organization We Fortify, which exists to shift vulnerable young adults into emotional and economic stability and social connectedness through: 

  • Safe and dignified housing within a small, supportive community
  • Individualized trauma-responsive care
  • Life skills education 
  • Living wage career placement

Homelessness Prevention

When Shelley Jensen and her husband were raising their children, their family mantra was to help anyone crossing their path who needed help. Through this, they learned about the cycle of poverty. 

“As our children needed me less and less, I wanted to do something purposeful with my life,” Jensen said.

She began researching the idea of helping young adults who were housing insecure. That meant reading articles, speaking with local human services directors, taking trauma-informed response classes and traveling to impoverished communities in India, Nicaragua, and Guatemala and Detroit. 

The next steps were to find land and create a development plan. Jensen approached brothers Greg and Rick Flaks, who were planning to scrap some homes on a small piece of land near Fountain and Sierra Madre, in an area known as the Mill Street neighborhood. Their father had purchased the homes in the 60s and 70s.

Jensen met with Greg and shared her vision. He told her: “I’d much rather serve young adults than put storage units on that property.” His brother agreed, and suddenly, Jensen had land.

The Village

During the research phase, the idea of tiny home developments kept popping up. They were intriguing because they were a manageable size and energy efficient.

Working with multiple agencies and people, We Fortify was incorporated as a 501c3 at the end of 2019, with Jensen as founder & CEO. Working Fusion at Mill Street would be We Fortify’s first village.

In 2020, the Edson Foundation donated the funding to build the first tiny home. That donation inspired additional giving and in March 2022, the first five residents moved in. Eventually, 18 people aged 18-29 will live in this community, which Jensen describes as “an incubator for real life.”

Each resident signs a two-year lease, pays $600 per month and is responsible for his/her own utility bill.

“This was by design,” Jensen said. “We would not be fulfilling our mission if we did not properly prepare them for the real world and to be prepared, they need to have social and financial responsibilities. These residents desire an incredible future, we help them get there.”

During their two years at The Village, residents receive trauma-informed therapies, life skills education and training and placement in a living-wage position.

Partners such as Fostering Hope, CASA, DHS, Joint Initiatives and Pikes Peak Community College) vet potential candidates and provide referrals for the tiny homes.  

“After that, we interview the applicants and have a very transparent conversation around what we expect from them … and the support that they can expect from us,” Jensen said.

The dwellings are bright and airy, accented with wood and other thoughtful touches. All come furnished and the residents take everything with them when they leave.

What’s Next?

Jensen said partners already are requesting additional communities. 

Meanwhile, Jensen’s family is building Hygge House near the Working Fusion village. The first floor will have a demonstration kitchen, a Care and Share pantry, living garden towers and more. The second floor will provide dedicated office space for We Fortify and partner organizations and the upper floors will house apartments. It's expected to open in 2023. 

What does We Fortify need to continue its work? 

“If I say “Show me the money” … would that be too forward?” Jensen laughed. “Seriously, there are so many great ways to be a part of this village.”

They are launching a campaign “It takes a Village to finish a Village.” The goal is to raise $400,000 by December 24 to cover the last of the infrastructure costs and future operations. It’s also possible to purchase furnishings for the homes through the website. Or to volunteer.

“If you love gardening, join our Fusion Friday team.  If you are good at teaching, become a life skills tutor, if you are good at planning events, help our Ambassador of Fun get it done. We match our volunteers to projects that speak to them,” she said.

Finally, if you have a parcel of land under one acre and would like to learn more about private/non-profit partnerships, contact Shelley at shelley@wefortify.org.

Website: workingfusion.com/
Facebook + Instagram: @workingfusion

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