Tiny House Village in Iowa Proposed for Des Moines Homeless

Joppa Outreach with BSB Designs create proposal to address issue of illegal Homeless Tent Camps

tiny house village in Iowa
Tiny house village in Iowa featuring 50-unit community - central garden view. Image via BSB Designs.

An ongoing issue typically reported along the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers is that of relocating pop-up homeless camps from the estimated 100 ‘unsheltered’ individuals in the area; meaning they live in tents, under bridges or inside vehicles.

If advocates say ‘it will take a village’ to stop the cycle then there is just that, a proposal for a tiny house village in Iowa.

Homelessness threatens more than 1,200 people in the Des Moines area, according to numbers from the Institute for Community Alliances.

These homeless tent camps have been a battle for years now which accumulate trash, human waste and eventually attract complaints by local residence.

See Also: 20 Tiny Houses for Living in Small Homes

Editor’s Note: Stunningly well designed tiny houses from naturally rustic to traditional cottage styles.


To respond to the situation which garners a reoccurring eviction notice from city workers who then have to clean up the mess, Joppa Outreach had teamed up with national architecture firm BSB Designs to address the issue.

“Camps like this are constantly on the move today because of homeless evictions”

Co-founder of Joppa Outreach, a local non-profit organization helping to provide services to the homeless, Joe Stevens goes on to say …

“The city has come along and has evicted pretty much every area near homeless services near downtown Des Moines and so homeless folks have no place to go.”

Joppa is proposing a three-pronged plan to implement a tiny house village in Iowa. The group envisions three different tiny house villages for Des Moines’ homeless population including a:

  • Starter village, for anyone in need of quick and temporary shelter.
  • Transitional village, for employment and other resources to get back on their feet.
  • Permanent village, where affordable tiny houses would be rented out monthly.

See Also: High-End Lil’ Lodge by Brother-Sister Design-Build Team


Tiny homes are a growing phenomenon across the country.

So a tiny house village in Iowa is not far fetched since there are several other precedents for communities in Portland, Oregon; Nashville, Tennessee; Austin, Texas and Madison, Wisconsin.

The village in Austin, Texas comes from Community First! a housing and community works program featuring a 27-acre master-planned community that will provide affordable, sustainable housing and a supportive community for the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas.

Joppa Outreach wants to start with about 50 tiny homes. Each would cost around $5,000 to build and would come with a secure door, windows and electricity.

There would also be a small bed, storage space, table and chairs in each unit.

Don’t think Section 8. This is a planned community

Joe Stevens wants the tiny house village in Iowa to be a centralized location where non-profit organization could funnel resources into.

Inhabitants would ultimately be living in a designed community looking for employment and a chance at stability within their current situations.


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Joppa is attempting to not only provide a safe place for individuals to get a good night’s rest but also will be providing social services and running a job program.

See Also: High-End Lil’ Lodge by Brother-Sister Design-Build Team

A schematic rendering of Joppa's tiny house village in Iowa.
A schematic rendering of the tiny homes proposed for Joppa’s tiny house village in Iowa.

The tiny house village in Iowa proposed by Joppa Outreach in conjunction with BSB Designs would feature a common building that housed shared bathrooms, a meal site, laundry and other essential services to its community members for comfortable and dignified lifestyle.

Resident council and staff members would help oversee the gated community and would be expected to enforce a strict zero-tolerance policy on drugs, alcohol and violence.

Additional amenities would be planned for like a shared community garden and available work spaces for on-site employment.

The goal would be to move residences from the starter village to more permanent placement in the village within a 6 to 24 month period.

View of bathhouse, bee hives and covered sitting shelter area.
View of bathhouse, bee hives and covered sitting shelter area.

There is even a long range plan to include two more tiny house villages; an emergency shelter community and a larger village for those couples and individuals working toward home ownership.

Tiny Homes Catch on but ‘Not in My Backyard’.

A year ago, city officials and Joppa Outreach nearly reached an agreement on a plot of land that would lay host to the implementation of a tiny house village in Iowa to service the needs of the Des Moines homeless community.

The proposed concept that had gained momentum in City Hall hit a roadblock after a potential site in the River Bend neighborhood drew criticism from residents.

Joe Stevens says a large part of his group’s efforts have been spent educating the general public regarding how the proposal aims to eliminate homelessness.

The homeless folks are already in the neighborhoods, but they have no place to go; we keep moving them from here to there through city evictions. So what we’re doing – when they come into the village, they’re no longer homeless. They’re now a resident of the community, and we have high expectations for what they will do to contribute to the community and be a good citizen.”

Village block for the tiny house village in Iowa
Village block shown: 400’ x 400′ on 3.7 acres. 200’ diameter circular with pedestrian walking path and fifty 8’ wide Sleeping Cabins (96 sq.ft.)

Joppa is continuing to work with local officials to make the project a reality as the village could help to alleviate the overcrowding at existing city shelters.

An Online Petition on their website has already received 450+ signatures.

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Tiny House Village in Iowa Proposed for Des Moines Homeless

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Cite this article as: Neil Silva, "Tiny House Village in Iowa Proposed for Des Moines Homeless," in Home Ideas HQ, April 10, 2016, http://www.homeideashq.com/2016/04/10/tiny-house-village-in-iowa-proposed-for-des-moines-homeless/.