The Tiny Home Big Community Project | Using tiny homes to help parents with behavioral health issues

The Home Big Community Project came out of a need for housing for families involved in Child Welfare Services. Many families are not able to reunify with their children due to lack of safe housing. The idea of smaller inexpensive housing was fueled by watching tiny home shows on TV. This project was speared headed by the Senior Operations Director of the Vista Hill Parent Care Program with ideas from the Executive Director of the Friends of Vista Hill and two of the Alumni of Parent Care. The Alumni attended the BE Health Forums and helped supply new ideas and a fresh perspective of what families need.

The Problem Statement we created for this project was “To help Families with co occurring disorders involved in Child Welfare Services to provide housing and supportive services in order to reduce foster care placements and help with reunification”. We felt like this incorporated what we were trying to capture for this project.

PROBLEM STATEMENT | How might we help Families with co occurring disorders involved in Child Welfare Services to provide housing and supportive services in order to reduce foster care placements and help with reunification



For this project we learned that many families need housing that are Child Welfare Involved. The housing stock in San Diego is not enough for existing San Diegans. For Families struggling financially, with behavioral health challenges, involved in Child Welfare Services and with past evictions it is even harder. Tiny Homes is an inexpensive way to develop a housing community. Although there are a lot of legal and zoning issues with housing under 500 sq ft. We did look into buying apartment complexes but with the market today, that is a really expensive proposition. The Tiny Home Communities seems to be a more cost effective way to go.

Foster care costs tax payers a lot of money each year. In addition it is hard to find foster homes for all the children that need placements. Foster Children often remark on how they want to be with their parents despite what their family is going through.  If there was a supportive, safe place for families to go that did not include children being removed from their parents, this would be a success. It would reduce foster care costs, it would help the families and tax payers.

Prior to this project, we did not think of all the services that would be helpful to the clients. Through this project we learned from the Alumni of the program that  families could really use the help of onsite psychiatry services, mobile medical bus, help for teenagers and basic needs such as laundry and emergency food.







Building the prototype was a way for us to see how the layout of the project would work. We realized it was important to have certain things like the playground in the middle of the complex so parents could keep an eye on their children. We learned that families value safety so a gated fence around the complex would be important. We used items offered at the Be Health Forum to make an initial prototype. This gave us some context to what we were trying to create.


The team reviewed the prototype and what changes we wanted to make. One of the Alumni then created a larger and more intricate prototype for our presentation.  This prototype was created with another alumni and her children. They thought of everything when making this prototype. The community center created an inviting atmosphere for clients to receive on site services.


We were then invited to share at the Be Health Forum. We shared our new prototype.


Through this process, we learned that it was helpful to come out with a systematic plan to accomplish the goals of this Tiny Home Community. Although we previously had this idea, the forum was helpful to provide concrete tools on how to present the idea. We invited Child Welfare Services and others to listen to the presentation and give feedback. We are hoping that others understand that San Diego has to become innovative when thinking of housing solutions, especially with vulnerable populations like those involved in Child Welfare Services.


Interested in learning more about this project? Contact Angela Rowe to learn more via email:


Everyone in our community can contribute their insights and experiences to propose innovative approaches including leveraging technology and connecting people to resources.