Ontario City Council approves license for tiny homes to house homeless

ONTARIO – A plan to provide temporary housing for the homeless leaped ahead last week after the Ontario City Council approved a revised license agreement between Ontario, Community in Action and Origins Faith Community church.

In the past several weeks the three organizations developed a plan to buy and install tiny homes to help the city’s growing homeless population. The site for the tiny homes is between Northeast Third Avenue and Northeast Fourth Avenue off North Oregon Street.

The changes to the revised licenses were minor and centered primarily on designating Community in Action to insure the tiny house complex.

“It is a six-month license. That will give us time to do the project and do an evaluation. They (the city) are providing the land through the license,” said Barb Higinbotham, executive director of Community in Action.

Higinbotham said the city provided the license for free.

The tiny homes are 8-by-10 feet and plans call for Community in Action to buy 20 using money from a state grant.

Higinbotham said once she receives the agreement from the state, a contractor would be selected to build the tiny homes. Higinbotham said so far Community in Action is reviewing bids from three local contractors.

Higinbotham said the homes “should be in production by the first of the year,” and Ontario City manager Adam Brown said he hopes the homes will be in place by mid-January.

“Frankly I am hoping sooner rather than later,” said Brown.

Higinbotham said one other small home would be installed at the North Oregon Street site.

“The additional structure is a cottage and we are anticipating that will be a little bit larger that someone could actually stay in and have a presence there. That will be where the rules will be posted,” said Higinbotham.

Origins Faith Community church will provide a manager for the facility who will be assigned to the cottage. Community in Action will fund the manager.

The tiny homes, said Higinbotham, are basic.

“They will have insulation and heat and lights and electricity and a cot,” said Higinbotham.

Brown said the state grant will cover the costs of electricity for the homes.

“I don’t think that will be much, because they are small and with a heater and insulation they are relatively efficient. And there will be some cost to connect from Idaho Power’s pole to each unit,” said Brown.

Brown said each home will be a short-term – up to 90 days – solution for an individual or a family.

“The homes won’t turn over every day,” said Brown.

Community in Action will screen potential applicants for the homes, said Brown.

Community in Action will also provide portable toilets, said Higinbotham.

The number of homeless locally fluctuates but Brown said previously he believed there are about 200 homeless in the Ontario area. Higinbotham said based on a count last January, 172 people were homeless.

Brown said the move by the council last week was crucial for the project because it can now move forward rapidly.

“This was kind of a major decision point,” he said.

Brown emphasized the tiny home plan is a “pilot project.”

“That is why everything we are doing is moveable. There needs to be an evaluation done toward the end of it to see how it works, if the location is right, if it needs to change. We will try to extend the net as far as we can as far as getting feedback,” said Brown.

Brown said the facility is not for “the perpetually homeless, it is for people who are in circumstantial homelessness.”

For the latest news, follow the Enterprise on Facebook and Twitter.

SUBSCRIBE TO HELP PRODUCE VITAL REPORTING — For $5 a month, you get breaking news alerts, emailed newsletters and around-the-clock access to our stories. We depend on subscribers to pay for in-depth, accurate news produced by a professional and highly trained staff. Help us grow and get better with your subscription. Sign up HERE.