Luis “Nacho” Nava, 56, is photographed at Goodness Village, a tiny home community where he lives in Livermore, Calif., on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Goodness Village has built 28 tiny homes to provide a stable living situation for people who have been homeless for more than a year, living in cars, shelters, or on the streets. (photo by Alysia Michaud)


Livermore’s Goodness Village a ‘tiny home’ paradise for unhoused people

The village of tiny homes is a lifeline to normalcy and better days ahead

Bay Area News Group

Published November 2021

Note: This story is from our 2021 campaign and has been fulfilled, but you can still donate to the Share the Spirit general fund.

Having your own home may be the American dream, but it wasn’t the kind of dream Luis “Nacho” Nava was chasing more than 30 years ago when he stuffed his belongings into a suitcase before boarding a bus in Mexico City bound for Los Angeles.

Tucked inside that bulging suitcase was the key to his life’s ambition: a pair of roller skates. He was sure those skates he wore while becoming one of Mexico’s top artistic roller skaters in the 1980s would also lead him to an even better life in America.

Nacho’s aspirations, though, veered off track long ago.

“I never expected to be homeless,” the now 56-year-old said softly.

As he recently told a story of how missteps, mistreatment and misery led to him becoming homeless, Nacho was surrounded by others at Livermore’s Goodness Village with similar tales. The shared stories by those assembled in a cramped communal room were cathartic. Their stories were also bound together by a palpable sense that better days really are here.

They’ve each found an actual permanent home to rent in this new “tiny house” community consisting of 28 small houses built on unused Crosswinds Church property. Once Nacho arrived last month, Goodness Village, a 501c3 nonprofit, reached its full capacity, with its residents ranging from ages 27-76.

Their homes are equipped with a sleeping area, restroom, shower and kitchenette all fitting inside houses measuring just 160 to 200 square feet.

To the thankful residents, it’s no small miracle they have a place to call their own.

“They’ve been used to sleeping in tents or sleeping bags, so they’re still feeling like, ‘Is this real?’” said Goodness Village’s executive director Kim Curtis.

The village concept was the brainchild of Crosswinds pastor Chris Coli, who realized homelessness was becoming a real issue in the Tri-Valley. On a visit to Austin, Texas, two years ago, Coli was inspired by a tiny home community for unhoused people. From there, it took some dedicated work by former Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty to secure the $3 million needed to actually build the village. Then it required heavy lifting from builders such as Trumark Homes and HomeAid Northern California, along with dedication from 280 volunteers to create Goodness Village.

The nonprofit has received funding this year from Share the Spirit, an annual holiday campaign that serves residents in need in the East Bay. Donations will help support 56 nonprofit agencies in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. Goodness Village will use its grant to fund staff who are available to support the residents 24 hours a day and help alleviate crisis situations.

The new residents may have taken different roads to Goodness Village since it opened in May, but their paths are all paved with varying degrees of pain. If the physical aches from sleeping somewhere outside, or on an acquaintance’s couch or in a vehicle didn’t get to them, then perhaps it was the mental strain from worrying whether they’d ever be able to change the direction their lives were headed.

Communities, they all knew too well, weren’t designed to be easy for the unhoused. They also found out how easy it is for someone who loses their home to lose some of their dignity.

“It’s like you don’t fit in with society,” said John Clarkin, a 46-year-old vet who had been homeless for the five years before landing at Goodness Village in August. “People looked down on you. I had dirty clothes and always wore my backpack. I looked homeless. Businesses don’t want me using their bathrooms. There was no place to shower. Cops were always hassling me. It got to be that I just wanted to be left alone.

“But now? I’ve got a home and it’s great.”

In addition to putting roofs over folks’ heads, Goodness Village’s staff members do their best to make sure residents don’t start falling through the cracks again. For residents who have no means of paying the $360 rent, they help maintain the village grounds by putting in 24 hours of service per month. They also receive help developing job skills. If needed, residents can receive counseling, mental health and substance use support.

Although there’s no religious commitment required for living there, having a church on the grounds may be beneficial for those seeking spiritual guidance.

As Curtis acknowledges, each resident goes at his or her own pace toward rehabilitating their lives.

For Gary, a 59-year-old vet who said seeing action in both Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 1990s “ruined my life,” the journey has long been a tedious one.

He’s been unhoused off and on for 15 years, living in secluded spots in Fremont, Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore until he was accepted into Goodness Village after a referral from his case manager.

Although he preferred not to speak much about his past troubles, Gary is hopeful about his future.

“I’m just so thankful for the people here,” he said.

The plight of vulnerable residents notwithstanding, so much more work lies ahead in this village. A planned outdoor community pavilion sits mostly undone. With just a couple of washers and dryers on site, there’s a growing need for larger laundry facilities.

Nacho, for one, is eager to offer a testimonial for Goodness Village to anyone who will listen. Before arriving here, he said the last dependable housing situation he had in recent years was when he lived with 10 other people in Pleasanton, paying $400 for a small area in a hallway.

“This village is the greatest idea. It should be emulated everywhere,” Nacho said. “They understand the concept of genuine compassion here. I have felt a better sense of community in the short time I’ve been here than I have in all the 30 years I’ve been in the United States.

“Now when I cry, I cry with happiness.”

How to help

Donations will help Goodness Village support 56 nonprofit agencies in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. Goodness Village will use its grant to fund staff who are available to support the residents 24 hours a day and help alleviate crisis situations.

Goal: $15,000

Note: This story was fulfilled, but you can still donate to the general fund

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