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Homelessness is a pressing issue in New Haven and has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, in the summer of 2020, Amistad Catholic Worker acted as a catalyst in establishing a tent encampment––Tent City––on unoccupied land along the West River in New Haven. This study aims to explore alternative models to transitional housing for Tent City through semi-structured interviews with seven representatives from established village-type housing models across the country, twelve New Haven stakeholders, and nine Tent City residents. Through qualitative rapid analysis, six main themes emerged: 1) There is a mismatch between the structure of New Haven’s shelter system and the realities of those it is meant to serve, 2) Tent encampments have existed in New Haven and will continue to exist for the foreseeable future, 3) New Haven made strides in improving the shelter system during the COVID-19 pandemic and should build on this momentum, 4) A city-sanctioned tent encampment or tiny house village will require supportive services, 5) A village model of housing is cost-effective, promotes harm reduction, and provides benefits that are absent from traditional shelter systems, and 6) Transitional village models are ultimately not the answer to homelessness; more low-income housing is.

Given our findings, we recommend the following to the city of New Haven:
1. Formally recognize and support Tent City as an immediate response to the reality of the shelter system.
2. Phase out congregate shelters and learn from the experience with hotel shelters to make them accessible to a wider spectrum of people.
3. Build a village model of housing, such as a tiny house village, that is transitional and targeted towards individuals who do not fit within New Haven’s shelter system. 4. Invest more resources in wrap-around supportive services to get people into housing and help them maintain their housing.
5. Investing in low-income housing is key.

Publication Date



Community Health and Preventive Medicine

From Tent City to Tiny House Villages: Exploring Non-traditional Transitional Housing Models for New Haven