Tiny homes for Denver homeless built by Cherry Creek students, teachers

Denver ‘village’ to house women transitioning out of homelessness

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Students who attend class in a vast, largely undeveloped section of the south metro suburbs helped build houses to stand in Denver’s inner city.

There was just one more thing to do: Deliver them.

“We’ve been waiting for the day when we could hand over the keys and say, ‘They’re yours now — welcome home,’” said Mike Degitis, a math teacher at Cherry Creek Innovation Campus in Centennial.

Degitis helped orchestrate a partnership between a construction class and an organization that aims to open a tiny home village for women and transgender women climbing out of homelessness.

At the Innovation Campus, where high school students in the Cherry Creek School District come to learn skills in several trades — from construction management to cybersecurity — students in the last school year built tiny homes as part of a partnership with the Colorado Village Collaborative.

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.

Now, the organization’s second tiny home community is nearly complete.

The upcoming village was to be the second-ever legal tiny home village for people experiencing homelessness in the Denver metro area, Cole Chandler, director of the Colorado Village Collaborative, said in February. Named the Women's Village at Clara Brown Commons, it'll sit near East 37th Avenue and North York Street, not far from the Five Points neighborhood.

The students at Innovation Campus built six units for the village, with a construction company building eight, according to Colorado Village Collaborative.

Andrew Dinsdale, an Eaglecrest High School senior, stood in the crowd Aug. 31 at the Innovation Campus, looking at the tiny homes he helped create.

“It’s a cool project — I would have done it no matter who it was going to,” Dinsdale said. “It’s a great cause. Just more of a reason to do it.”

Sam Goetz, also an Eaglecrest senior, doesn’t see much homelessness near where he lives in Aurora. But he was glad to lend a hand to a project to help people back on their feet.

“I really liked the idea that we’ll be learning and building something that in the end will help the community out,” Goetz said.

There may be more homes on the way: This school year, students could build a handful more of the tiny homes, again for the Colorado Village Collaborative, Degitis said.

Dorothy Leyba, a community organizer with Colorado Village Collaborative, felt excitement seeing the women’s village — an idea roughly three years in the making — come closer to fruition. The organization hopes to have residents move in around the end of October.

She said the most rewarding part of the project was the impact on the students.

“They can pass by there any time,” Leyba said, and see how they contributed “to someone being in a healing place.”

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