February 4, 2022| NEWS | By Eli Jaynes
A new community is sprouting up in Colorado Springs made up of 18 “tiny homes” for at-risk young adults. The community is being built by the Colorado Springs-based organization We Fortify, founded by Shelley Jensen.
Jensen started We Fortify after studying the cycle of poverty both in Colorado Springs and around the globe. Jensen says she saw the need for a healthy, supportive community to break the cycle of poverty, which she does not believe currently happens enough.
“That’s what’s neglected here when we hand out a housing voucher,” Jensen says. “The words are, ‘Here’s your voucher, you have 30 days to try to find someone who will take you.’”
Under this system, Jensen sees a complete lack of support and community, which can perpetuate the cycle of poverty. This gap inspired the creation of Working Fusion, the tiny home village Jensen is building downtown.
At Working Fusion, Jensen and her team at We Fortify are creating a safe, community-oriented space for young adults on the brink of houselessness. Residents at Working Fusion will be between the ages of 18 and 25, many of whom deal with the detrimental effects of childhood trauma.
The village will serve as a support “ecosystem,” according to Jensen. Residents will have access to support services as well as job training programs and community spaces like a garden and outdoor pavilion. Rather than splitting employment, housing, and social community into three separate spheres, Working Fusion aims to bring all these aspects together. In this community, residents struggling with one of these details have resources to fall back on.
Resources include people like Jill McCormick, the director of clinical services and wellness. Like Jensen, McCormick identifies gaps in the support systems that currently exist for young adults trying to break out of poverty.
In most cases, McCormick says, a case manager may infrequently check in with someone, but never truly get to know that person. Instead, McCormick hopes to develop closer relationships with residents at Working Fusion, to build trust and follow an individual’s progress.
She hopes to foster natural interactions over time, rather than having interactions feel like formal appointments with a therapist. We Fortify is building its office space just 300 feet from the new village, a choice that Jensen says is very conscious.
In total, the 0.6-acre plot a few blocks southwest of downtown will hold 18 tiny homes, each about 240 square feet. Each home is completely assembled off-site and driven onto the lot. Once inspected and hooked up to water and electricity, the homes are ready to be moved into. Currently, five homes have been completed and four are on site. The village’s first residents will likely move in this week after general inspections are complete. According to Jensen, We Fortify hopes that all 18 homes will be fully funded and on-site by Oct. 1.
In just 240 square feet, each home is fully outfitted, including a washer and dryer, and a split heating and A/C unit. Residents will pay $600 a month in rent to live in the village, and leases will last two years.
To live in the Working Fusion village, residents are recommended from partner organizations around Colorado Springs, including Dale House, Fostering Hope, and Homeward Pikes Peak. Potential residents then go through an interview process with We Fortify, and those that are offered housing sign a community contract pledging to uphold good neighborly practices.
Jensen says that the Working Fusion project has gained a fair amount of attention recently, with groups of veterans and senior citizens asking her to build more villages around the city. For now, though, Jensen and her team at We Fortify are focused on getting residents moved in and established as more tiny homes drive onto the lot.