Cherry Creek students building ‘tiny homes’ for homeless

Cherry Creek program helps effort to get unhoused back on feet

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For the second time, students at Cherry Creek’s career and technical education campus are building what are known as “tiny homes” as part of an effort to help people out of unsheltered homelessness in Denver.

“This project is not only teaching our students valuable life skills and preparing them for post-secondary careers — it’s also showing them how to use their skills for the benefit of the community,” Mike Degitis, project coordinator and a math teacher at the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus, said in a news release. “Compared to other practice builds in class, students take pride in this project because it will actually become someone’s home.”

The tiny homes are small residences complete with plumbing and electricity capability that will house people at a tiny-home village in Denver once they’re completed in April, according to a Cherry Creek School District news release.

“Tiny home villages provide a safe, dignified and alternative sheltering model for people coming from unsheltered homelessness in Denver,” Colorado Village Collaborative, the organization partnering with the school district on the project, said in a news release. “These villages bridge the gap between the streets and stable housing.”

In 2017, the City of Denver’s first legal community of tiny homes opened along 38th Street, giving a small number of people a lift in their struggle to exit homelessness. The Colorado Village Collaborative launched the community, called Beloved Community Village, which later moved to the city’s Globeville neighborhood.

The Colorado Village Collaborative later opened a tiny-home village for women and transgender women climbing out of homelessness.

To the organization’s knowledge, the women’s village was to be the second-ever legal tiny home village for people experiencing homelessness in the Denver metro area, according to Cole Chandler, executive director of the Colorado Village Collaborative. Named the Women’s Village at Clara Brown Commons, it sits near 37th Avenue and York Street, not far from the Five Points neighborhood. 

The first Cherry Creek students’ project to build tiny homes occurred during the 2019-20 school year: The students at Innovation Campus built six units for the women’s village. Now, students are building five units.

The units will be finished at the end of the students’ spring semester and will be delivered to the Beloved Community Village’s new location in late April or early May, said Jennifer Forker, a spokesperson for the Colorado Village Collaborative.

The Beloved village will soon sit at 4201 N. Monroe St. when the village relocates from its current location at 4400 N. Pearl St. by April 30, according to the organization.

Since 2017, the organization’s tiny-home program has grown considerably from its 11-unit origin, according to the collaborative. In 2021, CVC’s two tiny-home villages served more than 45 people, 11 of whom have graduated from the villages into permanent housing this year, the organization says.

At the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus, high school students in the Cherry Creek School District come to learn skills in several trades — from construction management to cybersecurity.

This year’s build includes first-year and second-year students in CCIC’s Infrastructure Engineering pathway, according to the Colorado Village Collaborative.

The organization has also worked with Denver to provide another kind of shelter. In July 2020, the Denver Mayor’s Office announced a partnership with the Colorado Village Collaborative to open “Safe Outdoor Spaces,” according to the organization’s website. The Safe Outdoor Spaces are “secure, staffed, resource- and service-rich environments” for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness, the website says.

The first two Safe Outdoor Spaces had “successfully operated” in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood starting in December 2020, the website says.

An entity called EarthLinks opened the first Safe Outdoor Space site at First Baptist Church, and Colorado Village Collaborative opened the second site at Denver Community Church. Those were the first two locations in Denver, according to Forker.

Some of Colorado Village Collaborative’s funding comes from the City of Denver, Forker said. The organization also receives funding from “generous individuals, foundations and business donors,” Forker added.

The Cherry Creek Innovation Campus is located at 8000 S. Chambers Road near East Broncos Parkway. It sits in the Dove Valley area of unincorporated Arapahoe County, just outside central Centennial.

homelessness, Cherry Creek, tiny homes, Mike Degitis, Cherry Creek Innovation Campus, Ellis Arnold

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