MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Over the last year, we’ve heard a lot of ideas about how to end the homelessness crisis in the Twin Cities.

More than 50,000 Minnesotans experience homelessness every year. The pandemic has made things worse. But one group is tackling the big problem in a small, but impactful way.

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Tucked away in a Maplewood parking lot is a small community with a large mission.

“We are building high quality housing for a fraction of the cost of traditional affordable housing,” said Gabrielle Crowdus.

A project that’s four years in the making, Crowdus, a University of Minnesota housing researcher, cofounded Settled, a community that will soon be set up on the east side of St. Paul – to house people who don’t have homes,

“These are people who’ve had a lifetime of trauma and also in environments of poverty so it’s not enough to just get a housing unit for them. We really need to wrap around them with family and community,” she said.

So Woodland Hills Church and other faith communities have each sponsored and built a $25,000 to $40,000 home.

For example, one 160 square foot home will go to a man who is now living on a park bench in St. Paul. There’s a cozy living area, a tucked away single bed, and a butcher block kitchen.

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But the amenities aren’t just for people who’ve experienced homelessness. Clowdus explains, “The intent is that housed and unhoused come and live intentionally.”

The Bloedorn family will be living in the settlement too, giving up their three bedroom White Bear Lake home for a 430 foot space. Erika Bloedorn says people have been asking “why?

“It’s not a ‘have to,’” she explained. “We feel called to do and to love our neighbors.”

The hope is that for all involved, these tiny houses will yield some huge rewards.

Paul Bloedorn says he can’t wait for the new perspective, “I think there is so much that we will gain than the small simple things we are sacrificing.”

If you’d like to help support the Settled community, there are three ways to help.

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You can gather a group to sponsor a home, you can donate land for a community, or you can be a volunteer in one of the communities.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield