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Nonprofit envisions village for homeless, impoverished

Development would provide opportunity for homeownership
Community Compassion Outreach, a Durango nonprofit, has plans to build a village that would allow those who are experiencing homelessness or working minimum wage jobs to buy a home. Designs for the homes are based on a concept originally developed by Humanitarian House International, a Denver nonprofit.

A proposed village could provide residents experiencing poverty and homelessness a chance at homeownership.

Community Compassion Outreach, a new nonprofit in Durango, envisions a 10- to 15-unit village that would give residents a sense of belonging and a neighborhood to call home rather than transitional housing, said Jon Alsdorf, president of the nonprofit’s board of directors.

“Right now, it is hard for people to feel that there is even a place for them,” he said of those experiencing homelessness. “They sense very clearly the idea that they are a nuisance and don’t belong.”

In recent months, the homeless community was forced to move several times into camps designated by La Plata County and then the city of Durango. The city closed the only designated camping area for homeless residents in the area at the end of August.

The nonprofit’s plans for the Village of Hope are in the early planning stages and the group is raising money to purchase land for it. A site has not been identified.

The goal of the new development is to eliminate the suspense and uncertainty that homeless residents and those in short-term transitional housing can face, he said.

The nonprofit, which was formalized in August, is focused on helping residents survive and exit homelessness. “What we know is when people are living in suspense, there is not a whole lot of progress happening in their life,” Alsdorf said. “They have a really hard time learning new things. They have a really hard time developing as human beings.”

Earlier this year, the nonprofit considered building a village for transitional housing, but the group has since realized transitional housing would not meet the community’s needs, he said.

A village, designed for homeownership, could provide the permanence that residents need to make other changes in their lives, he said. It would also allow them to sell the home when they are ready to move on and upgrade into a larger home, he said. The home would have to be resold at a price that would allow another resident earning minimum wage to purchase it, he said.

The nonprofit plans to keep the price of the homes below $60,000 and the monthly costs below $700, including utilities, to allow people making minimum wage to purchase a unit. The down payment could be 1 or 2 percent, attainable for someone earning minimum wage. The residents would own the units, but the land would be held by Community Compassion Outreach.

The units are planned to be 480 square feet, including a kitchen, bathroom, living room and bedrooms.

The village would have a community building to provide space for residents to take classes and have community dinners, he said. The village would also connect residents with case management if needed.

About 18 people have expressed interest in living in the village, said Donna Mae Baukat, the co-founder and executive director of Community Compassion Outreach.

The model would likely work best for homeless residents who are already working or for residents who are working multiple jobs and still struggling to pay for housing, Alsdorf said.

Ideally, property adjacent to the village could serve as a legal campground for homeless residents, who have no other option to camp legally in the open space around town.

The nonprofit plans to raise money for land and utilities, he said. The timing of the project depends on purchasing land in or reasonably near Durango city limits, and approval from the city of Durango and La Plata County, he said.

Humanitarian House International, a nonprofit in Denver, has expressed interest in obtaining a loan to build a home that could serve as a prototype, depending on where the home could be built. The loan would be paid when the home is sold, Alsdorf said.

To keep costs down, volunteers and future residents would likely help construct the homes, he said.

Community Compassion Outreach is building a coalition of faith-based groups and nonprofits to work on the project. Interested partners plan to attend the nonprofit’s fundraiser and planning meeting Sunday, Baukat said.

mshinn@duranoherald.com

This story has been updated to clarify Humanitarian House International’s interest in securing a loan to help with the project.

If you go

A fundraiser for the Village of Hope will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Durango Christian Church, 255 East 11th St. The event will start with a potluck, followed by a presentation about the village.

To attend, call Donna Mae Baukat at (970) 236-2313 or email admin@ccohome.org.

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