It’s time for an update on all things Close to Home!
First off, what’s been happening with ASPIRE and our travels to Chico, CA? If you haven’t read about our California expeditions previously, please check out this blog. And now on to the updates!
Connecting in California
Since our last blog, we had the opportunity to move ASPIRE to the campus of St. John’s The Evangelist Episcopal Church, in Chico, CA. This move happened through the support of Tami Ritter, from the Butte County Board of Supervisors, one of the many groups/agencies working to find housing for the Camp Fire Survivors. I first met Tami when I was in Chico in March and when we were looking for a new spot for ASPIRE later in the spring, Tami connected us with The Reverend Richard Yale, who quickly got approval for us to move ASPIRE on to St. John’s campus. The Church has been operating as a hub for much of the ongoing work of groups supporting survivors. It seemed a perfect spot for ASPIRE to call home for a time as folks were introduced to our DIY Tiny House on Wheels Kit, as it was inspired by the need for more post-disaster housing options.
Sherry Wallmark, Parish Administrator, was so helpful to us in her role as ASPIRE tour giver! We trusted her quickly with ASPIRE oversight and she provided access to campus visitors of all types – from agency leads to survivors exploring housing options, etc. The Church Wardens, Brad Pierce and John Thompson, were also incredibly helpful to us as we stored some of our tools on the campus during ASPIRE’s stay. It takes a village and we can’t thank the Church and its staff enough for their welcome and support.
All of that being said, it seems that our vision of tiny houses as a large-scale response/solution to the need for disaster housing is still ahead of how most folks are thinking. It does seem that seeing really is believing. Sherry had a few stories to share about how folks would see the outside of the tiny house and would express skepticism. Then she would invite them to step inside, and they would then quickly called to their friends & family to join the tour. The spaciousness afforded by the high ceilings, multiple windows and generally good and careful design really do impress folks once they are inside! But this consistent reaction tells us that it’s a hard product to sell to folks without having them see the product in person.
BIG thanks are due to Close to Home supporters Tess Schorr and Robin Irvine. Robin volunteered her own time and her Dodge Ram 1-ton truck to drive down on Saturday, July 20th to fetch ASPIRE. Tess and I were along for the ride as Robin did the driving from Washington to Chico, CA.
After a 10-hour drive, we met with Father Richard, Sherry and Brad from St. John’s, Tami Ritter, Butte County Board of Supervisors, and our supporters from CHAT (Chico Housing Action Team), Leslie Johnson & Bob Trausch, (they helped with ASPIRE care-taking earlier this spring) and enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Sierra Nevada Brewery. Sierra Nevada has been a big supporter of the Camp Fire Survivors and it felt an appropriate space to come together for a meal to express thanks for the support that these folks provided to Close to Home over the last few months.
Thank You to this group! Bottom of Photo: Robin Irvine. Lt to Rt: Tess Schorr, Leslie Johnson, Bob Trausch, Tami Ritter, Father Richard Yale, Brad Pierce, Rachel Stamm, Sherry Wallmark.
The Journey Home
The next morning we arrived at the Church to gather our things (thanks Brad & JT!) and to pack up ASPIRE for the trip back to WA. Although we might continue to be ahead of the post-disaster market (see blogs dating back to 2013!), the backyard cottage market in Seattle might finally be ready for ASPIRE. We’re excited about very recent progress this summer that will allow for more backyard housing options – hopefully they’ll translate into affordable housing options for more folks. Tiny ASPIRE could play a BIG part in that story.
Robin carefully navigated our path, with ASPIRE in tow, over the mountain passes between Chico, CA and Western Washington. It took us longer than 10 hours to drive home – the tiny house weight definitely slows down that drive! But we were grateful to arrive safely and with many rounds of highway bingo under our belts. Tess Schorr helped not only with this move but with the previous move from our first site in Chico to the Church. She’s a devoted Close to Home Volunteer and wrangled Robin into this weekend adventure! Thank you Tess and Robin!
The next step in the plan is to settle ASPIRE into her backyard space in Kent, WA, where we’ll continue to show her to folks in order to continue to move the needle on the public’s perception and understanding of what a tiny house really looks and feels like. As I’ve been saying for a while now, pushing a boulder uphill requires some stamina and patience, and belief that the view from the top is worthwhile.
Reflections and Persistence
As I sit down to write this blog after a horrendous weekend of violence in the United States, I’m compelled to continue to work on a part of the puzzle to provide an equitable housing solution in this country. As we’ve said before, there is no one solution that fits all, but our ASPIRE tiny house and many of the products that we feature on our Close to Home site can provide safety and security for many. Whether that’s someone seeking housing after a disaster, or someone needing affordable housing in an un-affordable city, or a young person “graduating” from the foster care system, there is only a growing need for more housing solutions. We, as a country, obviously need to do more to bring people into our communities, with a focus on inclusion and equity, instead of having people feel further and further isolated. Affordable and accessible housing is at the foundation of that mission.
We’ll look forward to an OPEN HOUSE this fall to show ASPIRE off to more folks. Please keep following us on social media, sign up for our newsletter, and you’ll be sure see our invitations.