SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced progress on the build of tiny homes for homeless Utahns as part of her goal to have a tiny home village in place this winter.

During a Thursday press conference, Mendenhall announced a partnership with The Other Side Academy, a non-profit organization that offers vocational training for criminals, substance abusers and the homeless, to create the village. 

The Other Side Village will be a pilot for a tiny home model of homeless services in Salt Lake City and will focus on serving people experiencing chronic homelessness. 

Mendenhall said the city needs to think creatively to help house its homeless residents and assist in their challenges, and called the city’s partnership with The Other Side Academy “a huge step forward.”

“We’re moving at light-speed here, given the scope and urgency of the challenge, and I think that’s a testament to the commitment of the City and our partners to confront the reality of this issue,” said Mendenhall, citing The Other Side Academy’s devotion to the cause and “proven track record” of community management.

Both Mendenhall and Joseph Grenny, the chair and founder of The Other Side Academy, noted that the social system of a tiny-home community was just as important as the physical structures themselves.

“The most important part is to create an environment, socially and physically, that facilitates connection with others,” said Grenny. “Homelessness is the result of a catastrophic loss of family. So the solution must be to build a new family. The second most important part is establishing a community with strong social norms. This is what brings out the best in all of us.”

The Other Side Village will be an addition to the resources already in place for people experiencing homelessness in Salt Lake City.

Laurie Hopkins, executive director of Utah’s Shelter the Homeless organization, praised the city’s plans to augment its current initiatives with affordable housing, calling it “a key component in making homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring.”

City officials say the announcement of the tiny homes is the first in a series of benchmarks that the city and its partners aim to meet this year in order to have The Other Side Village up and running this winter.