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Tiny home village in Des Moines could help homeless get back on their feet

The proposed community would be built on now-vacant land southeast of Des Moines airport and include 50 tiny homes and other amenities for residents.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Joe Stevens and his team at Joppa, a non-profit that aims to end homelessness in the Des Moines metro, have been working to build a tiny home community for seven years.

That vision is closer than ever to becoming a reality.

"This is really a perfect piece of property. It meets all of our criteria," said Stevens, CEO of Joppa as he gave Local 5 a peak at the land where the community will be built.  The land sits just southeast of Des Moines International Airport along County Line Road.

"This is a new concept for the city of Des Moines, but it's well-researched," said Kurt Carlson, housing program manager for Joppa. "We've got some really professional partners that are collaborating with us to help make this happen. This is going to be a success, and this is going to enrich the community of Des Moines."

Under the current design plans, the 96-square-foot homes will have places to cook and sleep. They'll also each have a bathroom, which was prompted by pandemic concerns.

The community could have life changing impacts, according to Al Luper, who spent more than two decades living on the streets of Des Moines before Joppa stepped in to help.

"We don't have to become an animal. Or we don't have to carry our bags," Luper said. "We will have a place to lock our door, place our clothes, wash our clothes, brush our teeth, wash our bodies. There will be all that stuff there."

The homes will placed in groups of 5 homes to help encourage a sense of community. "You've got other people in the village that have been where you've been before, and they're saying you can do this, we can help," Stevens said.

The village will include a clinic, laundry facility, community center, community garden and security for residents. There will also be a shuttle service to help connect residents to the nearest bus lines.

The non-profit is working with the city and Polk County to make the community a reality.  But Joppa's leaders say the surrounding community will play an important role when it comes to buy-in.

"Now, we're just looking forward to meeting with the residents and applying the ideas that they have and just making this everything it can be," said Stevens.