Frequently asked questions.

The Full Community Approach

Why is homelessness growing?

The Full Community model rests on the philosophical assumption that the single greatest cause of homelessness is the profound, catastrophic loss of family. Full Community is an acknowledgment that homelessness in many ways is synonymous with heartbreak, and none can fathom the depth of human sorrow in the human heart. For one to come out of long-term homelessness, a Full Community model presumes that one must be invited into a community where there is restoration of the human heart. And, to experience homefullness (the sense of being settled and belonging) is to experience being fully and wholly known and loved, inherent needs of every human being.

We also know that affordable housing is not affordable, nor is there enough to go around. In fact, each year more naturally occurring affordable housing is lost than is gained in our country. To make matters worse, across the seven-county metro area, there are virtually no available subsidized housing options and nearly all the waiting lists are closed.  All of this scarcity is compounded by the fact that there is a <2% rental vacancy rate across the Twin Cities.

What does the homeless community think of this solution?

One of Settled’s social outreach partners has developed trusted relationships with over 100 long-term homeless individuals over the last five years. They estimate 75% of the people they serve would be interested in this type of solution. The benefits include housing with a rent they can afford, a supportive community, non-institutional culture, and the opportunity to dwell in their own structure without shared walls in a place where they can belong and contribute.

In our hundreds of listening sessions, we have learned that people experiencing homelessness find dignity in simple features such as a lock and key,  privacy, and “a roof over my head when the snow comes.”  In fact, they prefer more housing be built with fewer amenities instead of the status quo that leaves people on the streets.

Sacred Settlements

What is a Sacred Settlement?

Sacred Settlements are an innovative, research-based way to address long-term homelessness by developing holistic tiny home communities in cooperation with a faith community.

Each resident has his or her own tiny home, placed alongside others on the under-utilized land of religious institutions. As a whole, the community shares facilities and amenities such as kitchen and dining spaces, bathrooms, laundry, gardens, workshops, and gathering areas. The land is managed by a religious or social organization to maintain standards for safety and welfare.

These settlements are designed to foster community through regular interactions with others and working with the broader community to live a lifestyle of service. Specially-trained Intentional Neighbors live in the settlement and work with all the members to ensure that the settlement is healthy and thriving. A team of Supportive Friends support inhabitants coming off the streets to build trusted relationships, walk alongside them as they journey to meet their life goals, and connect them with valuable support services.

Why Sacred Settlements?

The current system to serve the homeless cannot meet the scale of need. Minnesota, for example, has a shortage of 17,000 units of supportive housing which would require $4.3 billion in bonding. Sacred Settlements are a privately-funded solution designed to bridge the gap between emergency shelter and costly conventional development.

A report commissioned by HUD supports the use of tiny home villages as a "feasible, cost-effective option" to house people experiencing homelessness. The report found that villages "create communal support, benefiting residents’ likelihood of long-term housing, employment, and contentment."

While new to Minnesota, Sacred Settlements are very similar to the year-round camper cabins in MN state parks with centralized bathroom facilities.

What role does each partner play?

Settled leads the fundraising, operational model, home and site design, construction management, and legal and media strategy, develops and facilitates training, and provides work opportunities for inhabitants in product making.

Faith communities act as a host site for a Sacred Settlement (with guidance and support from Settled), maintain ownership and insurance on the development, provide property management, and arrange on-site work opportunities for inhabitants, alongside routine shared meals and activities as they are led and able.

Is this legal?

Minnesota: In the summer of 2023 the State of Minnesota passed historic legislation in support of Sacred Settlements. This streamlines the regulatory process with cities across the state. You can read a summary of the bill here.

Nationally: The land use provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) protect individuals, houses of worship, and other religious institutions from discrimination in zoning laws.

RLUIPA is not a blanket exemption; rather, it requires that the government not "impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise" unless it shows that the burden furthers a "compelling governmental interest" and does so by the "least restrictive means." We have found this applies well to zoning matters and serves to enable development where it would not otherwise happen.


Why moveable tiny homes?

Inexpensive: A tiny home is 1/10th the price of a new affordable studio apartment, and donated land and volunteer labor significantly reduce costs.

Aesthetically pleasing: Blend into a residential community better than a typical RV or mobile home.

Eco-friendly: Homes are built to be long-lasting structures that meet health and safety standards and are highly insulated to save on energy costs in a wintry climate!

Participation: Provides faith communities and inhabitants a sense of pride and ownership by coming together to create dignified housing.

Customizable: Can be designed to incorporate creativity, individuality, and functionality.

Promotes community: Settlements will have an emphasis on shared spaces and shared amenities.

Smaller footprint: Our tiny homes are on wheels in order to allow us to build smaller dwellings than many cities’ minimal square footage requirements allow.

What is the cost of one home?

Home sponsorships are $35,000. This amount includes the cost of the trailer, building materials, interior built-ins, soft goods and furnishings, contractor services, professional oversight, and third-party inspection. If you would like to sponsor a home click here.

What standard do we build to?

Working closely with the Department of Labor and the Minnesota League of Cities, we have developed stringent building standards for tiny homes in a Sacred Settlement. The standards are based in large part on those recommended by the national Tiny House Industry Association for what is known nationally as a "Moveable Tiny Home."

Inspections are conducted either by an accredited third party or MN Professional Engineer. Any building renovations for the shared facilities and site preparation are subject to municipal building and grading permits.

Does this solution work in a northern climate?

Unlike recreational vehicles, these homes are heated, insulated, and ventilated like a single-family home. Each home will be heated with a natural gas heater and insulated according to zone 6 standards from the International Residence Code.

What about bathroom access?

Each unit has a dry commode and a gravity-fed water tank and catch basin that is fully enclosed inside the tiny home and is not in danger of line freeze. This allows inhabitants to use these options short-term if they are sick or need access in the middle of the night.  

For normal conditions, a community building is accessible 24/7 by inhabitants with flush toilets, showers, a kitchen and communal gathering space, laundry facilities, and a place to fill water tanks.


How do you decide who lives in the homes?

The Full Community model was developed with the chronically homeless in mind who are most often the hardest to house, have the least options available to them, and are the costliest to society. They also have the most to gain as this home may be the first where they have ever felt welcomed, known, and loved.

Our partner organization, Walking with a Purpose, has spent years getting to know many unsheltered people in St. Paul by name. Each week a group of volunteers visit campsites checking in on neighbors and providing much-needed survival gear and food and water. Over the years trusted relationships have been built, and knowledge of people’s needs and abilities to live in community have been established. This does not preclude us from working with other homeless populations in the future as individual faith communities feel called.

What are the requirements of inhabitants?

Inhabitants, including neighbors coming off the streets and Itentional neighbors, are required to go through a background check, pay their rent, abide by civil law, and follow the rules of the Settlement. If they are consistently unable to pay rent and not taking advantage of the productive work opportunities and/or if they are a constant disruption to the community, they will be asked to leave. In this circumstance, another candidate will move in.

Are there any religious requirements?

Sacred Settlements are hosted by non-proselytizing, faith-based organizations where everyone is welcome, but not required, to participate in the spiritual life of the community.

What about social services?

Social services are very important for those experiencing long-term homelessness. However, we have found there is an enormous chasm between those who could benefit from these services and the services themselves. Our focus on community and a supportive network of Intentional Neighbors and Supportive Friends is meant to be the bridge of trust, emotional support, and logistics for our friends coming off the street. Each Sacred Settlement will be supported by a network of like-minded partnerships for our future inhabitants to connect with as they gain the stability and desire to begin that healing process.

What about addictions and mental illnesses?

In Minnesota, 3/4 of homeless adults have experienced significant childhood traumas that make them more likely to suffer from major chronic health issues later in life, as well as mental illnesses, and substance abuse disorders. These issues can best be healed through meaningful relationships in community. In addition to a supportive community, a network of professional like-minded agencies offer a range of supportive services to inhabitants.

Who are Intentional Neighbors and Supportive Friends?

Intentional Neighbors are a central part of a Full Community approach. These individuals or families are resourced people who have a calling and desire to live among the poor and be a good neighbor. Intentional Neighbors augment the role of family by modeling a healthy lifestyle and are a part of a routine support system. They function as equals by paying the same rent and following the same rules as any inhabitant without compensation.

Supportive Friends are people who do not live in the settlement but still desire to come alongside inhabitants as friends. For many people on the street, the world feels set up for them to fail and is overwhelming in its sometimes conflicting agendas and motives. Supportive Friends are invaluable in supporting people in navigating life and fulfilling personal goals.