Tiny homes help combat homeless children


Advance-Titan file photo – The tiny homes located in Oshkosh Wisconsin. The Oshkosh Kids Foundation hopes to reduce the homeless children population by giving families a place to live in exchange for civil services.

Payton Murphy, Guest Writer

To many, homelessness can seem like a distant concept; it is something that only happens in movies or TV shows for dramatic tension, or something that only is talked about on the news.

Some Oshkosh residents might be generally unbothered by the concept of homelessness, believing that it is something that does not impact our small community and only takes place in far away cities. But the devastating fact of the matter is that homelessness is real and is present all across America, including in Oshkosh. 

In the Oshkosh area school system alone, up to 200 students are identified as being homeless each year, according to the Oshkosh Kids Foundation. 

The Oshkosh Kids Foundation is a local community organization that is attempting to help decrease that statistic by creating the Tiny House Village, a housing project focused on eliminating homelessness in the Oshkosh area. 

            Julie Dumke

The Tiny House Project is headed by Julie Dumke, co-founder and executive director of the Oshkosh Kids Foundation. The mission of the project is to build 32 tiny homes and a community center that will be inhabited by Oshkosh area families struggling with homelessness for durations of 18 months. 

“Our target is getting the families and the children into stable living environments,” Dumke said. 

According to Dumke, the Tiny House Village is a program somewhat inspired by previous services provided by the Oshkosh Kids Foundation, like motel assistance and security deposits. Unfortunately, after COVID-19 the need for this assistance grew in the  Oshkosh area, while the cost of motel rentals also increased. 

With the rising costs of motel rooms, the program became unsustainable for families struggling with homelessness. A limited number of shelters and resources in the Oshkosh area for families living through homelessness, along with, a  lack of low-income housing in the region, exacerbated the problem. 

After a brief period of brainstorming, the Tiny House Village was born. With help from Dumke, Oshkosh Kids Foundation board president Will Deppiesse, local architect Chet Wesenberg, local philanthropists TJ and Veleta Rogers and the rest of the Oshkosh Kids Foundation board, the project was able to get off the ground. 

The Tiny House Project not only aims to help demolish poverty by providing housing to families in need, but also aims to assist in other ways as well.

“[Families] are required to participate in services, so whatever brought them to homelessness in the first place, whether it was relationships or financial issues or they couldn’t get a job, they are required to do programming to help move that needle.” Dumke said. 

Community members and UWO students can also help with the creation of the Tiny House Village. The Oshkosh Kids Foundation is actively accepting donations to help with construction efforts for the project. Money can be donated on the Oshkosh Kids Foundation website via credit card or Paypal. 

Dumke also suggests that students and student organizations can help the cause by holding donation drives for items such as bedding and towels. 

After the Tiny House Village is established, Dumke says the Oshkosh Kids Foundation will be seeking tutors or people who want to do enrichment activities with the children to volunteer time to the project. 

Dumke hopes said she hopes the creation of the Tiny House Village will help families and children in need and give families dealing with homelessness hope for a better future. 

“Really, any one of us could be one step away from being a homeless family,” Dumke said. “We’re just trying to give these people a leg up so hopefully they can get on their feet again, and start over, and hopefully be successful.”

The Tiny House Project is scheduled to be completed around July of 2023 and will be located in the city of Oshkosh, on Packer Avenue between Jackson Street and Main Street.