For years we’ve followed the work of our partner organization, Settled, and their creative vision for addressing chronic homelessness with small communities of tiny homes. Now, in Woodland’s back parking lot, there’s something brand new to see: the nation’s very first Sacred Settlement model, a collection of five tiny homes.
Right now the Sacred Settlement is on display only, but this summer, it will be moved onto land at Mosaic Christian Community in St. Paul and the first residents will move in.
Settled Co-Founder Anne Franz says that, in the meantime, the tours are an important way to help people move beyond thinking about tiny houses as individual units only. It’s one thing to see an individual house, but there’s something particularly special about seeing a circle of homes all together and glimpsing the future community that will live in them.
Settled has been inviting people to “come and see” and hundreds have come from all over the Twin Cities to take tours. Co-Founder Gabrielle Clowdus says they are all “brought together by interest in a new way of responding to our homeless neighbors, and their need not just for housing but for community.”
The tour starts off with a short documentary followed by a Q&A. Then participants move outside to the circle of tiny homes. A string of cheery lights runs from home to home and flames flicker from a fire pit in the middle.
Each of the homes is slightly different, so visitors are encouraged to visit them all and enjoy their unique features. The one thing they do have in common is an attractive, inviting space, thoughtfully decorated and arranged to create a sense of welcome.
Visitors are immediately impressed:
“It’s so beautiful.”
“It’s so cool how they have stairs going up there to the bed. Imagine waking up there in the middle of the night!”
“This is nicer than my house!”
On a tour, you may have a chance to meet Erika Schmidt, her husband Paul Bloedorn and their two boys, Isaiah and Micah. They will be the first missional family at the Sacred Settlement. A missional family is a resourced family from the community who feel called to live as good neighbors among the poor.
Erika and Paul are members of one of Woodland’s Sojourners house churches. They have been exploring this idea for years. As they discerned what was next, Erika said her prayer was: “Light my heart on fire if this is what we’re supposed to do as a family.”
The family began to join Walking With a Purpose (another WH partner organization) on visits to meet neighbors experiencing homelessness and Erika says that as soon as she started meeting people she knew this was their calling. “The confirmation that we were supposed to do this was in making those relationships. A Sacred Settlement is all about relationships. We’re all messed up whether on the streets or in a house. We’re all broken and need the body.”
Since then, the family has sold their three bedroom house and in June they will move into community life in a 430 square foot home in the Sacred Settlement. Their neighbors will be friends they’ve made through Walking With a Purpose.
What’s Woodland’s role in all this? While this is the first Sacred Settlement, it will not be the last. As Janice Rohling, Woodland’s Executive Pastor explains, “We see ourselves as a construction build site. Not every church has the capacity for this, but we do. We are totally behind working together rather than separately—together for the sake of others. And this is what we can do for others: build and donate.”
So, come and see for yourself. And pro tip: you do not want to miss out on Gabrielle’s homemade hot cocoa (first house to the left!)