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The Toughest Segment of the Homeless Population

The statistics will tell you that the unsheltered urban homeless living on the street are primarily single individuals, male, between the ages of 30 and 65, without work income, and disproportionately African Americans.  This is the target for the Urban Camp Solution.

Other homeless solutions are focused on families, single mothers with children, young adults, and the elderly.  These groups can move through intervention, counselling, and transition to permanent housing with the help of homeless service providers.  Low income individuals and families may fall into homelessness by an economic setback, but can be helped with financial assistance back to permanent housing.

The chronically homeless, living on the street, middle aged, single male, often with addictive and mental health issues, unemployed and perhaps unemployable individual is a tough problem.  It has a solution in Single Room Occupancy (SRO) living space – Created Anew by Urban Camp.

All Chicago

Single Room Occupancy (SRO) A Persistently Disreputable 100 Year History

Single Room Occupancy is a housing type that has existed since the 1800s in large cities throughout the US.  In general, SROs have always been in disrepute but here is a fair description from Wikipedia at :

Single room occupancy (more commonly abbreviated to SRO) is a form of housing that is typically aimed at residents with low or minimal incomes who rent small, furnished single rooms with a bed, chair, and sometimes a small desk. SRO units are rented out as permanent residence and/or primary residence to individuals, within a multi-tenant building where tenants share a kitchen, toilets or bathrooms. SRO units range from 80 to 140 sq feet. Some SRO units may have a small refrigerator, microwave and sink.

SROs are a form of affordable housing, in some cases for formerly or otherwise homeless individuals. SRO units are the least expensive form of non-subsidized rental housing, with median rents even in New York City ranging from $450 to $705 per month. Since the 1970s and 1980s, there has been an increasing displacement of SRO units aimed at low-income earners due to gentrification, with SRO facilities being sold and turned into condominiums. Between 1955 and 2013, almost one million SRO units were eliminated in the US due to regulation, conversion or demolition.

Our quick description of an SRO would be:

  1. A residential building with 1-2 people living per very small unit of 80 to 400 SF
  2. Common Bathroom per floor may be allowed
  3. Common Kitchen per floor may be allowed

SROs Still Allowable in Model Zoning Codes

The benefit of the SRO concept of housing is that it persists as a recognized and allowed building type in many of the urban zoning codes throughout the US.  Zoning codes probably more so that building codes seem to restrict the development of ultra low cost housing. Here is an example model zoning code from California:

10-3.1901 - Single-room occupancy residential housing.

When allowed by Land Use Regulations Table 3A in the zone applicable to a site, a single-room occupancy residential housing facility (SRO) is subject to the requirements of this section. The provisions of this article are intended to provide opportunities for the development of permanent, affordable housing for small households and for people with special needs in proximity to transit and services and to establish standards for these small units.

(a) Conditional use permit required. A conditional use permit shall be obtained prior to use of any rooms or units for SRO purposes.

(b) Location. A single-room occupancy residential housing facility shall not be located within three hundred (300) feet of any other single-room occupancy residential housing, emergency shelter, or other similar program, unless such program is located within the same building or on the same lot.

(c) Development standards.

  1. Size. Units shall have a maximum floor area of four hundred (400) square feet.
  2. Occupancy limit. Each unit shall accommodate a maximum of two (2) persons.
  3. Laundry facilities. Laundry facilities shall be provided in a separate room at the ratio of one (1) washer and one (1) dryer for every ten (10) units of fractional number thereof.
  4. Bathroom. An SRO unit is not required to but may contain partial or full bathroom facilities. If a full bathroom facility is not provided, common bathroom facilities shall be provided in accordance with the California Building Code for congregate residences with at least one (1) full bathroom per floor.
  5. Kitchen. An SRO unit is not required to but may contain partial or full kitchen facilities. A full kitchen includes a sink, a refrigerator and stove, range top or oven. A partial kitchen is missing at least one (1) of these appliances. If a full kitchen is not provided, common kitchen facilities shall be provided with at least one (1) full kitchen. For projects with more than ten (10) units common kitchen facilities shall be provided with at least one (1) full kitchen per floor.
  6. Code compliance. SRO units shall comply with all requirements of the California Building Code. All units shall comply with all applicable accessibility and adaptability requirements.

SRO Created Anew by Urban Camp

Urban Camp is designed as the smallest code compliant dwelling.  It is a minimum of 80 SF of habitable space (which excludes bathroom) and a total of about 120 SF.  To meet code requirements the Urban Camp module includes permanent provisions for sleeping, bathing, cooking, and sanitation and a year round minimum temperature of 72F.

Here is how Urban Camp is Created Anew from traditional SRO concepts:

  1. Non-Congregant:  Each dwelling is an individual control space with its own toilet bath and kitchen.
  2. Human Scale Architecture:  Single story clusters of 10-12 homes to facilitate an interactive and supportive environment
  3. Personal Control Space:  The tenant is expected to maintain a clean living space and prepare meals in a simple living space.
  4. Secure Space with Lots of Storage: The space is secure and accessible by key to the tenenat.  The unit has substantial storage space for personal items.
  5. Open to the Street and Common Areas:  Dwellings open to common areas accessible to the street to maximize interaction with others.
  6. Weaved into the Fabric of the City – but with Cushion Boundaries:  The living sites are designed to be limited in scope on land adjacent to the urban core – but with cushion boundaries from other residential neighborhoods.