A year after an experimental neighborhood opened in Dallas to help fight chronic homelessness, the non-profit running it says it’s working.
The Cottages at Hickory Crossing is made up of 50 tiny houses. But the houses are only open to the homeless. The new method to solving homelessness is to give the homeless homes.
Inside this gated community just outside of Downtown Dallas are 45 people who have a place of their own for the first time in years.
Lavitia Walker is one of the cottages’ newest residents. Before moving in a week ago, she said she lived on the streets for six years.
"I was sleeping under a bridge under 67 and 20,” she explained. “I don't want to go back on the streets. It was real hard out there."
Walker says she's battled her mental illness for years, putting her in and out of the jail and hospital.
“Now that I'm back on my medication, it makes me feel more better because I can be stabilized now,” she said.
The 400 square-foot houses were under construction in 2015. They have kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms.
“We like to say housing is the cure for homelessness,” said City Square President John Siburt. “But it is a specific kind of housing — permanent supportive housing.”
And that is essentially a home with no strings attached.
“We think housing betters people in and of itself and betters the community,” Siburt explained.
There is a network of support services available to the residents, but they aren't required. People can stay in their home forever.
“On average, these individuals were costing the county $40,000 or more per year to be on the streets. We can house each one for $15,000 a year,” Siburt boasted. “We're seeing physically, people begin to look year's younger just from not being on the streets. We're seeing people begin to dream of employment, look into job training programs, have their mental illness managed by medication or counseling.”
Even after just one week there, Walker is excited about her new life in her own home.
"I'm going to make the best of this,” she said.
The cottages receive about half of their funding from private donations. The other half comes from federal government funding from HUD.
According to City Square, 35 of the 45 people living there have been here since opening day one year ago.