As America’s homeless crisis continues to worsen, Good Samaritans across the country have been coming up with creative solutions to help those most in need. Recently, however, one group ran into an unexpected foe: local government.
Joseph Lankowski bought a parcel of land in Las Vegas with a vision of creating a community of tiny homes that would house those who had nowhere else to go. Since June 2020, Landowski and his organization, New Leaf, have built 31 homes in the form of Conestoga huts.
The huts gave people “a place to call home," Lankowksi told KTNV. "They had a tiny home where they could lock the door, so then they could actually go out and get services without having to worry about getting your things stolen or anything like that."
However, North Las Vegas authorities recently demolished the community because the 50-square-foot structures didn't meet the minimum home size required by law or conform to other housing regulations. The parcel is zoned for a single-family home. According to North Las Vegas code, the minimum size is 1,200 square feet, reports KNTV.
Nevada Senate Bill 150, passed last year, requires that major cities allow for tiny home communities in certain places. Officials have until 2024 to create new building and zoning codes that make this allowance.
Lankowski argued that his organization and the people they help couldn’t wait that long, so they started building. "We don't have time to be sitting on our hands when we have these resources and the ability to help people," Lankowski said. "We don't have time to be waiting for politicians' inaction. So we just went ahead and started building." He stated that New Leaf bought land to build on because that's what they were told to do when another community they had built was demolished.
Lankowski also told KNTV he tried to follow the correct procedures for zoning and permits. "And we ran into a dead end because there is no zoning. There is no zoning for what we're trying to do."
KNTV notes that “there was no complaint filed by nearby residents or businesses about the tiny homes.” Instead, North Las Vegas acted on a search warrant that allowed code enforcement to "remove, demolish and dispose of all non-permitted or deteriorated structures."
"It hurts. I'm sad and angry. All in all, one ball of confusion on ... why? I want to know why?" asked Angela, who had been living in one of the huts. "For once, I was like, yes, I can do this. I can stay clean and sober. I can create. Draw. I can become anything I want to be at that moment."
New Leaf seems to still be building, though the intended location of its newest structures is unclear. "We can't be stopped!" the organization posted on Instagram last week as it called for volunteers.