WATCH RHONDA'S STORY
"It was like a reason to live. It was a flourishing time in my life. I just felt good about myself. I just felt a sense of belonging..."
Rhonda begins to stir as the sun dawns over the eastern plains on a midsummer morning. The forecast calls for yet another 90 degree day with no chance for rain, but at this hour the sand feels cool against her weathered skin. The sound of the Platte River making its northern trek out of town still drowns out the drum of the Washington street traffic, but this won’t be the case for much longer as folks from the surrounding neighborhoods make their commute to work.
Rhonda peeks out from beneath her tarpaulin to see how many others made their way to the beach overnight. She heard others walking by throughout the night, but couldn't see whether or not they stayed to make their camp in the dark. As the light breaks, she makes out a few figures up stream. There is a couple that she recognizes from the library downtown. A young man, barely 20, cuddled up with his dog. A transgender woman of color who makes camp across the river from time to time. A couple of women that work late nights at Coors Field cleaning up after home games. Rhonda rises to meet the sun and stretches her arms over head. These nights on the ground aren’t easy on her aging body, even if the sand along the river is softer than the concrete of the streets. Nevertheless, she’s thankful to greet the sun. Grateful to have survived another night outside as a single woman without being hassled by the police or anyone else roaming the banks of the river in the dark of night.
She walks to the river and begins her morning routine. She splashes cold water on her face, and brushes her teeth. She grabs a bar from her pack, and wets her parched and sunburned lips with the last couple ounces of water from her bottle. She begins to gather her things. Some will fit in her daypack. Others can be stored in the brush beneath a nearby tree. She’s lost quite a bit of stuff out here and returned several evenings to find her survival gear scattered or missing, but she can’t carry it all each day. The base of the tree is the best storage system she’s got for now.
She longs to hold a warm cup of coffee between her hands, but knows she’ll find that when she makes her way up the hill to the village. It’s time for construction. Hard hat atop her head, Rhonda is warmly received by a crew of volunteers and professional construction workers when she arrives at the job site that morning. This isn’t just any jobsite, though, on this site, Rhonda will be driving nails into the walls of her very own home. Over the next two months, Rhonda will go through this routine each morning as she shows up to build her new community - Beloved Community Village, Denver’s very first tiny home village built by and for people experiencing homelessness.
Around three months after moving into the village as one of its founders, Rhonda will walk into a Village Council meeting in tears saying, “I’ve got my own apartment.” When others cheer and celebrate, she will say, “I don’t want to leave you all. I don’t want to leave my family.”
But the truth that she will discover is that even when she moves on from the tiny home she built and into her one bedroom, one bathroom apartment, she will not be leaving her community. This time, she won’t be going anywhere, and that’s what really matters.
Beloved Community Village is the pilot project in what we envision as a metro-wide network of self-governed tiny home villages. St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church has long shared this vision and in partnership with CVC, has recently filed paperwork with the City of Denver to build Denver’s second community of tiny homes. This one will be a safe space for Women and the Transgender / LGBTQ community who are especially vulnerable when living on the streets. Like it’s predecessor, this village will be built, and lead by the Women and Transgender / LGBTQ beloveds that make their life there.
St. Andrews is the site of the next tiny home village. They've been serving the community for 100 years.
They understand that 8 tiny homes in their parking lot won't solve homelessness, but it will be a start for women and the Transgender / LGBTQ community who are particularly vulnerable on the streets and have very little access to shelter.
Hope For Our City
St. Andrews is providing a beacon of light and hope in the city. Their heart and mission is to provide sanctuary to vulnerable populations.
Everyone deserves a dignified place to lay their head.
Tiny home villages are a model for how cities and congregations can do something now to address the affordable housing and homelessness crisis in our communities.
You can make a difference by providing homes, creating community, and restoring lives today.
Will you rally your friends and family to support the village?
Starting a fundraiser and sharing this story with your connections can make a huge difference!