Long-term homeless people in East Baton Rouge Parish may eventually be living in tiny homes ranging between 100 and 200 square feet. City-Parish officials there presented a $250,000 grant to the Capital Area Alliance for the Homeless to get the project going.

Southwest Louisiana is facing an increasing homeless population, and political, business, church, civic and charitable leaders here can gain some important knowledge from projects like the one planned for Baton Rouge.

The Baton Rouge non-profit alliance got the idea from similar homes built in Austin, Texas, and Olympia, Wash. The alliance hopes to get the project under way by providing at least 20 units of affordable, stable housing, according to a report in The Advocate.

The newspaper said typical tiny homes consist of a small space with a bed and storage and also with bathroom and kitchen facilities. An official with the mayor-president’s office said it will be “very careful about where we put this type of development, recognizing that not everybody wants this near their neighborhood.”

An alliance official said, “We’ll aim for maximum transparency. We intend to do this project with input from the homeless people who will be housed there and any neighbors that might be close by.” The parish planning director said it would be easiest for the non-profit to build the homeless community in a commercial zoning district.

Getting homeless people into homes will reduce the crime rate, an alliance official said, because “the homeless are much more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators because they are so vulnerable.” Three homeless people were shot to death in December and a Baton Rouge man is facing prosecution as a serial killer.

About 16% of the development’s annual budget would be covered by rents paid by residents. Some of the people living in the development would even have service jobs there, like working as a hairdresser.

The nonprofit would like to get churches, businesses, civic organizations and builders to sponsor houses. If utilities can be delivered to the site, it is believed the homes can be built for $20,000 to $25,000 in materials, with volunteers picking up the labor.

Homeless alliance officials made several trips to Austin to get a better idea of what Community First! Village, a 51-acre development there, is all about. It will eventually include more than 500 tiny homes, each measuring about 200 square feet.

We commend the Capital Area Alliance for the Homeless for its initiative and for the example it is setting for other communities with the same problem.