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Epoch Times Feature: Tiny Village Has the Vision of Giving Shelter to Youth Transitioning Out of Foster Care

An organization is building a community of 24 tiny homes to help teach life skills to young men aging out of foster care.

The organization New Vision Renewable Energy (NVRE) is building a community of 24 tiny homes called “New Vision Village” in which half of the residents will be young men aging out of foster care and the other half will be experienced adults who can offer guidance to the youth.

The building of the homes kicked off in late March with a groundbreaking and dedication ceremony at the site of the proposed community in rural Barbour County, West Virginia.

Pastor Ruston Seaman, founder and director of NVRE, told The Epoch Times, “Unfortunately … if you’ve been in a foster care facility and environment, a lot of times these young people haven’t been given very much instruction that would help them in their adult life, and that’s one of the big problems.”

The NVRE website states that New Vision Village began with an aspiration to serve and to help.

The website mentions that West Virginia has the highest percentage of children in the foster care system in the United States. It states that 38 percent of the young people in foster care in West Virginia will be homeless on their 18th birthday. It also states that 58 percent of the young men aging out of foster care will be in trouble with the law in the first 18 months.

Mr. Seaman said the project is also designed to teach life skills, including how to show up to work on time, work successfully with others, clean up after oneself, be safe at work, manage money, and pay bills on time.

Pre-Fab Innovations, based in Fresno, California, is a tiny-house manufacturer that partnered with NVRE to build the tiny homes. It also built a factory nearby to manufacture tiny homes, which will play a critical part in providing long-term job training to village residents.

They will also teach the young men to help build these tiny houses so they will have an understanding of construction from start to finish, said Mr. Seaman.

Part of the uniqueness is that the village will provide the young men with a place to live and a job nearby so there will be fewer barriers to getting to work because they are in the same area, he said.

As far as how the young men will be chosen to live in these tiny homes, NVRE is working with agencies that handle foster care children to develop a referral process. Mr. Seaman said that there’s an organization called the Mountaineer Challenge Academy in West Virginia that’s run by the Department of Defense. It offers a six-month educational program where you can earn a high school certificate if you complete the program.

He said that all the young people who finish the program and are interested in going to work may qualify for the village.

Mr. Seaman said that all the homes are single occupancy dwellings, and some of the types of mentors they may be looking for to live there are widows, veterans, and other people who are single who want to live in a community of friends.

“There’s a lot of upsides to it all. The houses will be new, they’re efficiency apartments, there’ll be a laundromat on site for you to do your laundry, all the houses have their own kitchen appliances and a refrigerator; so it’s mostly self-contained. The village will have a lot of community activities that people who are looking for that experience will benefit from,” he said.

The young men will qualify for section 8, which will help with their rent bills.

“Part of teaching the young adults how to grow and integrate into society is working to take care of themselves and paying rent,” he said.

Each tiny home will include a living room, bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen. Each home will have a stove, a table, and a comfortable chair. The bathroom will have a shower with a tub.

The front porches will all face each other surrounding a central courtyard so none of the residents can isolate themselves. The plan is based on similar models developed for homelessness around the country.

“It’s meant to be a place where neighbors get to know one another instead of hiding from one another,” Mr. Seaman said.

It will be a drug-free and crime-free location. Their lease will be void if they break the law, he said.

The village will be built on a seven-acre property that was donated by Mr. Seaman and his wife next to a community center that they have already built on the property, which includes many spaces to learn woodworking, art, and robotics. Spaces to promote health and wellness include a gym, a basketball hoop, soccer, and volleyball as well as a wide range of social activities.

“So it’ll be the place where everybody interacts, and the village residents will have direct access to it seven days a week,” said Mr. Seaman.

He said when they built the community center they didn’t have a vision for the tiny-home village yet, but one thing led to another.

“You go as far as you can see, and when you get there, you can see a little bit farther,” he said.

Todd Prather, an NVRE board member, told The Epoch Times in an email that extensive research has gone on over the past several years—consulting with directors of similar communities, advising with political stakeholders, and pursuing federal and state grants to fund the village. After much ado, the first grant of $487,000 was awarded in

November last year with additional amounts matched to follow, Mr. Prather said.

“The New Vision Village will be the first of its kind in the nation and a unique community to support these young, parentless adults at a most critical point in their life, when they turn 18 and no longer have state ‘support.’ It’s a phenomenal concept!” he said. “This is a place for kids to find community and learn skills under mentorship and ultimately bring those skills back to the community—much more than just another nonprofit ‘raising money.’”

Mr. Seaman said, “Our hope for the village is it won’t be the last one; it’ll be the first one and more and more of them will develop around the country, because there’s a lot to learn, and there’s a lot of young people that have a huge amount of challenges right now in their lives to try and survive in the 21st century in America without the support of a family.”

According to WV Public Broadcasting, the journey to New Vision Village began in 1979 when Mr. Seaman was an 18-year-old hitchhiker seeking direction and purpose. He became a pastor and credits God with guiding him on the adventure of a lifetime. “It takes a village” has become a real-life metaphor for New Vision’s commitment to providing a safe, healthy environment where youth can develop and flourish.

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