The Finally Family Homes organization hosted an open house in celebration of the completion of its first tiny home built by foster youth and volunteers on Saturday morning at the Restoration Church in Valencia.
Behind the Restoration Church was a tall, grey, narrow structure with large windows and outside furniture. Inside the structure, there was a kitchen, one bathroom with a narrow large space and two lofts, one large enough to hold a bed. The first floor, not including the loft, was a total of 200 square feet.
Zion Banks said that soon enough the 200-square-foot tiny home would have a brand-new refrigerator, a washing and drying machine, and an office set up with a computer and desk.
At 14 years old, Banks was put into the foster care system, and as he became a young adult no one ever told him how difficult it could be to find affordable housing.
“When I was 18, and I moved to transitional housing, I was like, ‘There’s not a whole lot of options, especially for someone that doesn’t have a whole lot of money to spend,’” said Banks. “So, I was looking at options trying to find something that did not have rent attached and no HOA fees or anything like that and then tiny homes were the solution to it.”
With the help of Finally Family Homes, a nonprofit 501 (C)(3) organization, Banks slowly began to gain the resources he needed to build the tiny home from the ground up.
Finally Family Homes aims to help vulnerable foster youth from homelessness and help them become successful adults.
“The kids age out of foster care (and) they become homeless. Right now, the stats are about 50% of California youth who age out become homeless within a year or two and there’s just not enough affordable housing for them,” said Finally Family Homes Founder and Executive Director Christina Dronen. “We created (this program) as a way to create affordable housing. So this tiny house actually counts as an affordable housing unit according to the state of California, and L.A. city (and) Santa Clarita.”
Dronen added that the foster youth they serve gain the construction skills to be a part of the process of building their own home. They are also required to take life skills classes to learn about their finances and how to manage other responsibilities to be able to take care of themselves.
“We can’t just hand somebody (a) house and expect them to be successful. We have to give them all the tools,” said Dronen.
Banks purchased his own floor, toilet, shower and will soon be purchasing his own stove so he can make his own meals in the tiny home.
The tiny home cost approximately $35,000, according to Dronen. A lot of the materials to build the tiny home were donated.
“It’s long-term housing (and) it’s personal equity. It gives him a step up in the world and now he doesn’t need to depend on systems. Now he has ownership, and he can fix his own house or move in somewhere, rent it out if he wants to, but that’s the idea behind those tiny homes,” said Dronen.
Although small in space, the high ceilings, natural lighting from numerous windows, and modern details made it instantly feel like a home.
“This will be my main living space until I’m ready to buy a full house then I’ll use (the tiny home) to rent out to people or Airbnb,” said Banks. The process of building the tiny home began in October 2022, said Banks, and he was happy that he was finally going to be able to call a place his own.
“I have some aspect of my life finally together,” said Banks. “Finally, not having to worry about making monthly payments to survive (and) showing other people and my friends it’s possible to own something that may not be a mansion but it’s certainly a nice space.”
In a special ceremony, Dronen gave Banks the key to his tiny new home while people around him applauded the milestone.
Finally Family Homes plans on beginning its second tiny home in January and hopes to expand its services with time.