OSHKOSH (NBC 26) — Having a place to live is one of our most basic human needs, but it's something more people in Oshkosh are finding themselves without.
"The Oshkosh Area School District averages anywhere from about 170 to over 200 identified homeless kids each year," said Julie Dumke, Oshkosh Kids Foundation executive director. “They’re going from couch, to couch, to couch, their families are split between relatives and they just don’t have stable housing.”
Homelessness is sometimes an unseen issue that Dumke said has only gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Since 2019 we've housed over 387 kids in the Oshkosh area that were struggling with homelessness," Dumke said.
Full shelters and little low-income housing in Oshkosh doesn't give struggling families many options.
That's where the Tiny House Village comes in. It's a $4.5 million project between the Oshkosh Kids Foundation, ADVOCAP and Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development to provide transitional housing for homeless families while parents find work, get connected to resources and learn life skills, like financial literacy.
"All those things seem pretty manageable to most people, but if you're in a condition where you're in crisis because you have kids and you're homeless, all those things are mountains to overcome," said Todd Mandel, Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development executive director. "We provide that shelter so the families can start to focus on the next level of their development."
This empty field along W. Packer Ave. in Oshkosh will soon be the location for a Tiny House Village that’ll provide a transitional space for homeless families. More on @NBC26 at 6. pic.twitter.com/pyaEwlBtMM— Kelsey Dickeson (@KelseyDickeson) June 22, 2022
The Tiny House Village will be along West Packer Avenue between Jackson and Main streets. It'll have 32 housing units, including one for an on-site manager, and a community center with a commercial kitchen, classroom and laundry facility. Tenants will also be able to enjoy a community garden, basketball court and gazebo.
Tanya Marcoe, ADVOCAP executive director, said the village is based in a great location for families, close to Oshkosh schools, social services, a bus line and the industrial park.
"It gets them off the streets in good housing, gets their family stable," Marcoe said.
The tiny homes will hold two to four people. Families are able to stay between six and 18 months. During that time, a full-time case manager will work with them to help get them back into the community.
"We have a lot of planning in place, goal setting, stuff like that with each family to get them out of low-income housing and become more self-sufficient and hopefully one day to be a home owner in our community," Marcoe said.
The village could be full with families by this time next year. The community center is expected to be constructed in four to six months. The homes are currently being built off-site and will be moved once they're finished.
“The need is there, so hopefully we can fill it, and help move the needle with these families and create opportunity for these kids in the future," Dumke said.
The project is being funded primarily through private donors and grants. Dumke said they still need about $1.5 million to finish the village. People can visit the Oshkosh Kids Foundation website for more information.