Do Tiny Home Project Right, Not Quick

Following is the Guest Editorial Comment by Jeffrey Holland, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, published on September 19, 2018 by the Albuquerque Journal:

When I look at the Tiny Home Village project and think of all the positive outcomes that it might produce, I can easily imagine it helping many people in need. In my mind, there is little reason it should not happen. Then, I am suddenly reminded of the enormous elephants in the room – the city and the county. Neither the city nor the county has substantial proof they can build, run or administer anything like a Tiny Home Village with any measure of immediate success.

Albuquerque residents might or might not be familiar with the Supportive After Care (SAC program) apartments located on county property at 5901 Zuni SE. This is the same location of the county-run Metropolitan Assessment and Treatment Services detox program known as MATS. On this property sits a million-dollar-plus apartment complex built approximately a decade ago to create transitional housing for people dealing with addiction and homelessness.

If I’m not mistaken, it has 12 apartments and can house approximately 40-60 people. I’m fairly certain it has never been at capacity. Over the years, they have tried various types of programming and even housed other programs, such as the women of the Milagros program – called Mariposa under the county. Only recently has it started to operate near capacity. This is not a slight on the county, but it does show how difficult it can be to get something of this magnitude up and running properly.

The 5901 Zuni SE location would be ideal for a Tiny Home Village pilot project due to the already existing infrastructure, security, walled perimeter, access to services, public transportation, etc. I feel this is an absolute necessity before scaling up to what the city/county is proposing.

It is my opinion that we face a very big problem here. A problem that is very realistic. The problem comes in the form of potentially wasteful spending. We have actual proof that this type of endeavor has been tried in a similar fashion, with the result being less than stellar or, at least, so it seems. If the city/county move forward with the Tiny Home Village quickly rather than appropriately, the results could be bad, really bad. If that happens, this will be another ART-type situation and they will never have the public’s trust in this area again. The only people who will lose are those people who need the help: the homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill, etc. …

It is my opinion that for a Tiny Home Village to be accepted, embraced and supported, our elected officials must show the people of Albuquerque it will work, not just tell them it will work. This should be done appropriately, NOT quickly.

Therefore, as much as I want a Tiny Home Village to move forward and for it to be successful, I am beginning to realize I have very little faith in the city/county doing something they have failed at in the past. I am seriously re-thinking my support of the Tiny Home Village until an actual pilot program can show efficacy, competence, trust, fiscal responsibility and accountability. When was the last time we had all those from any governmental project?

Here’s what I would like to see before a full-scale Tiny Home Village moves forward:

• A five-to-10 person/couple pilot project that will outline exactly how much it costs to provide services, support, etc. for a minimum of six months. This will give us an approximate multiplier on how much we can expect a much larger Tiny Home Village to cost.
• A women-only project. The women of our community simply do not have enough resources in this area. Quite frankly, we should be ashamed of this fact. These women face challenges and trauma that most people will never be able to comprehend. They deserve better, and we need to consider this a priority. This population has been ignored for far too long.
• After a pilot program of at least six months, we should see detailed financial accounting, along with tangible results regarding how and why the program is working, and will continue to work moving forward. Positive results cannot be ignored/denied and if it is truly a benefit, positive results will speak for themselves.
• When you can buy a 320-square-foot shed for under $10,000, but a 116-square-foot Tiny Home is projected to cost $17,000 to $20,000, something is a little off. These homes should go out to bid. That is not to say the cheapest bid is the best, but I have a strong feeling we can do better than the current project price per square foot while keeping the homes aesthetically unique and environmentally friendly.

… I’ve seen what it takes to provide services for this population and I have run a 20-unit single-occupancy program for almost 10 years. As a matter of fact, the city/county solicited advice from us for this project.

Let’s do it right, not quick. People’s lives are at stake.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.