The Landscape of Activism for Tiny Homes

The Landscape of Activism for Tiny Homes

Lisa Kogan, a local school teacher inadvertently started the saga of lobbying for approval of the tiny homes and tiny shelters in San Diego. Her epic struggle to change the lives of the homeless in this city with her tiny shelters idea yielded mixed results; she partnered with the non-profit Amikas and a team of supporters, volunteers, craftsmen and attorneys sympathetic to the cause, but the government officials I have met let me know it is preferable to build solid structures which can become high-end rent income mines after 50 or so years of a contractual obligation to be low-income buildings.

For good measure, I have submitted my updated education and business plan to all the agencies in which I am a member, but priorities veer toward those with emergencies, rendering the ideas dreams and programs with funding in place better for all social workers collecting a salary. Rumors from social workers of my acquaintance have it that funds for housing will most likely be allocated in the near future to more families instead of single people, as so many single folks fail to remain stable due to the tricky book of regulations to receive funds from the organizations running programs and a lack of supportive mental healthcare adherence peers unfailingly fall into as is their wont.

Recent developments in funding bring hope! The December 11, 2018 Independent Budget Analyst Report IBA-18_37 Review of FY-2019 First Quarter Budget Monitoring Report shows the City’s Economic Development Department (EDD) is trying to liquidate $38.2 million in the Successor Agency (SA) Redevelopment Property Tax Trust Fund (RPTTF) as Residual Distributions to create an additional unbudgeted $6.5 million to the General Fund for Pension Increases, by failure to spend the Successor Agency money and lack of plan for spending cash.  Sabotage.

Solution: Lobby City Council on December 11, 2018, to get the full $38.2 million in additional CDBG Program Income for FY-2018 so that it can be used for good instead of liquidated for no reason. This brightens my day. Let’s hope those funds are not used to fund some CEO’s salary.

Both Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo have finally passed legislation to approve tiny homes as dwellings. Way to go, folks! Let’s hope San Diego follows in their epiphany.

For our Acquaintance, this:

I’m much happier these days since entering Alpha Square, a Permanent Supportive Housing program run by Alpha Project. About three years ago I came to San Diego upon the insistence of my middle sister to come and re-invent myself in California after a toxic love relationship ended. Had I known she was fully Bipolar and not on medications I would have passed. Three years of hardship ensued.

Alpha Square is a Permanent Supportive Housing facility. Their building is managed by Royal Property Management Group. In every way possible to establish a dream residence, the team of social workers assigned to the in-house program (alas, there is a program) brings forth a tremendous amount of support in the form of donations of clothing, utensils, assorted goods, men’s groups, bible study groups, presentations from various nonprofits and even access to food from their pantry and a “grocery time” during which a few stores donate vegetables and other necessities with which people collecting SSI and SSDI can bridge the gap in necessities when they have no more funds to buy food.

There are rules in every government-funded facility and Alpha Square is no different. There are annoying rules, such as 1. No visitors past ten P.M. unless a request for an overnight stay has been filed twenty-four hours in advance. 2. All tenants must escort visitors to and from the lobby after said visitors surrender their driver’s license or identification card, being subject to security guards with a thuggy past to speak to your visitors and you as prisoners. However, there is the opportunity to right these wrongs by filing a written complaint. NO ONE from the front desk speaks to me anymore and that is how it should be. People with mental disabilities require empathy, not stereotypical law enforcement tactics.

Since I became a tenant at Alpha Square I completed two courses: SDSU’s Roadmap to Recovery course and a Family and Peer Support course from NAMI San Diego. There is the matter of becoming a commercially-successful writer of short stories, but I shall save that until I can truly dedicate myself to the career. Check out Rogue Diary on BlogSpot.

Not all is Bleak

Your tax dollars are used in various programs to fund a transition into working and contributing to society: MHS and countless other agencies dedicate their efforts to prepare folks with a criminal past and peers with mental disabilities to achieve self-sufficiency.

There is one fatal flaw I found in my transition into Mental Healthcare: as a Family and Peer Support Specialist my available jobs require driving and even bathing clients in their homes, for which I had to obtain clearance from the Caregiver Background Check Bureau. It took nine months to receive that clearance from them and when I finally reported to work I was awarded twelve hours of work at 12.50/hour. Not what I expected as a College graduate! I do not receive funds for disability and I care not to consider my desire to exercise my abilities to help others as a hobby.

Are the organizations I applied to asking of me to be liable for a severely mentally-challenged individual to jump out of my automobile and be rolled-over by a truck? Knowledgeable CEOs of select companies have made arrangements with Lyft and Uber to transport them. I changed careers to be “Boy Friday?”

A change in career should be focused on the realistic expectations government-funded agencies require. So many people have at least one record of arrest and incarceration for events such as DUIs and violence that an entire sub-class of people has sprung from the survival of the immaculate designation to weed out the ever-poor ones. How about the Culinary Arts?

Praise goes to the truly aware and helpful social workers who send out emails to me about job leads and special resources to be obtained on a limited basis. I love you, guys. Not everyone is callous in Social Work.

How do I bridge the gap between Reality and Optimism?

These days I continue to network with sincere people who care about change in the flawed system of care and give my extra t-shirts to those in need. The Ten Commandments come to mind since almost all charitable organizations are Christian-based. I’m a Buddhist, but the pageantry of Christian churches holds sway in my affection for musical and community needs.

What do I contribute to Society? My empathy and activism as well as being part of the group that shows up at City Hall. I allow some of the friends I made during my homeless years to take a nap at my place since there is a snoring crisis in shelters and sharing a film with popcorn with them is just a way to create a safe haven for them. Is there someone who would donate a surgery to cure snoring? There is one, you know.

I have also become involved in a team of concerned citizens who inspect Independent Living facilities, as the ownership of a home and collecting money from the disabled invites abuse easily. Seven hundred dollars+ a month for fifteen tenants’ money orders amounts to a lot of money. The pride of being able to prevent this abuse by inspecting the facilities in which my peers live is something I find necessary in my own recovery and peace of mind. Volunteering rocks! They have just taken on reviewing Sober Living facilities as a branch that has been necessary for a few years in this town. Getting thrown out because of relapse and keeping your deposit is barbaric.

My most substantial contribution is being a volunteer for Public Relations and entrepreneurial ideas for Tree San Diego and its project Trējuvenation, which saves end-of-life trees from going into the wood chipper. Feel like making a table out of a polished treetop? The wood is free and it can become beautiful in the hands of the right artist.

So, what’s next?

Research and promptly-available action in legislation, regardless of how mangy most homeless people look. Why not take the time to connect and change other humans’ lives? That would be fantastic. My peers need support in any way you can give it. I’m not vain, but a lot of them need hope and a makeover.

There are events and even private ones from prominent figures working in public office. The revolution must come from within, not on GoFundMe or social media. Even rock stars go on tour! Happy Holidays to all!

Text: Orlando Barahona/
Image (top): Nathan Rupert/Flickr – Creative Commons
Image (bottom): Bill Dickinson/Flickr – Creative Commons