MEDFORD — It’s one of Medford’s newest gated communities.

A year after it opened, a tiny house project funded in part by the Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl Small Grants Program is full and ready for expansion. Hope Village, also backed by St. Vincent de Paul, Providence Health, and Sacred Heart Parish here, shelters formerly homeless people in 14 cozy insulated sheds. By year’s end, it will have 30.

To keep out problematic influences, Hope Village does have a gate. But open hearts are what makes the community tick, said the Rev. Chad McComas, executive director of Rogue Retreat, the social service organization that operates the project.

“Two years ago, everyone was skeptical,” Rev. McComas said. “Now we’re a model village.”

In its first year, Hope Village has been home to 53 people. Almost three dozen have found their own apartments elsewhere and perhaps have a job. The average length of stay so far is about four months. 

The tiny houses, 8-by-10 feet, have neither electricity nor plumbing. The village has central restrooms and a kitchen. A community garden provides fresh produce. The idea is to offer a good mix of private and communal space, something hard to find in traditional shelters.

Case managers help residents fulfill life plans. Nine residents have jobs, the highest number since the village opened. Three residents are in treatment to manage addictions.

The tiny house movement rests on the idea that safe, stable shelter is the first step in building self-sufficiency.

As at Kenton Women’s Village, a Catholic Charites tiny home community in Portland, residents self-govern to some extent. A council handles disputes like stolen food, neglected chores and noise. Some residents have been asked to leave if they can’t cooperate. Most new residents become responsible citizens within a couple weeks.

“It takes time for people to change,” said Rev. McComas. “Street mentality is me first. Village mentality is everyone else first. They are so hungry and desperate for community that they embrace each other.”

Each tiny house, assembled by volunteers, cost $3,500. It takes about $7,000 per month to operate the village, and each resident contributes $60 monthly. Funds are provided by health care contracts, foundations and private donations.

After expansion, Hope Village will be as big as a tiny house community should be, Rev. McComas said. Rogue Retreat is looking for land to build a second village. 

“The homeless crisis is not going away,” said Rev. McComas, pastor of Set Free Christian Fellowship in Medford.

All West Coast cities have seen a spike in homelessness because of high housing costs and an increase in older people who have not saved enough for retirement.

Catholics, Evangelicals and Mormons have teamed up on Hope Village. 

Rev. McComas sums it up: “Believers in the Lord want to do something to help those who are in trouble.”

The Rogue Valley project proves that homelessness is not unique to Portland, said Matt Cato, director of the Archdiocese of Portland’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace. Cato helps oversee the local CRS Rice Bowl collection.

“It’s inspiring when a diverse community unites to shelter the homeless because those without homes still are our brothers and sisters,” he said.