Foxhole Homes, a non-profit that provides sustainable and affordable housing for the homeless including veterans, launched the beginning of their sustainable community for the homeless early Friday morning on Veteran’s Day.
The proposed community, which is the first of its kind in Otero County, will be located at the corner of Alamogordo Drive and Tularosa Street.
Foxhole Homes founder Darron Williams said the particular location was chosen because it fit exactly what they were looking for.
“It was basically here and it was available. When we initially started looking at the property, its use otherwise would probably have only benefited livestock at best,” Williams said. “When we started looking at it – it was because of our goal of permaculture where we wanted to take advantage of natural rainfall and it turned out to be incredibly appropriate for what we needed.”
Williams said the location was also perfect because it wasn’t too far from an urban area.
“One of the stipulations that we need is for the property to be relatively close to an urban area,” Williams said. “We’re two miles from White Sands Boulevard and so for a veteran, that’s not a far distance to walk or ride a bicycle as opposed to other areas of un-improved land that’s 10 to 20 miles out, that becomes transportation dependent and a real difficulty for the veterans.”
Foxhole Homes has been on a journey for the past two years and their vision is almost a reality.
In October 2015, Foxhole Homes launched their first off grid and sustainable home construction project in Tularosa on Rattlesnake Road. The housing is inspired by Earthship Biotecture and is constructed with repurposed materials including car tires, glass bottles and cardboard.
Earlier in July, Foxhole Home founders requested from county commissioners to build a test site at 16 Matthews Road under the state act that contained two tiny houses using different thermal mass structures for walls for less than $5,000.
In September, commissioners approved Ordinance 16-07 Sustainable Development Test Site Act that was modeled after the New Mexico Sustainable Development Testing Site Act.
Despite support from county commissioners, at the latest commission meeting on Nov. 10, County Commissioner Janet White said she would not sign a letter of support granting Foxhole Homes machinery to develop their infrastructure until they make a few clarifications. Commissioners Susan Flores and Ronny Rardin agreed.
“I’m not willing to sign this letter of support and I will give you a couple of reasons,” White said during the meeting. “Number one, we haven’t seen a plan. I’m not going to give a blank letter of support that we haven’t seen the plan. This needs to go through Otero County Planning Commission. At this point it’s the cart before the horse.”
White said her other concern was who the community was intended for.
“When you made a presentation to us in the beginning it was characterized for homeless veterans, in the letter of support there are no mention of veterans,” she said. “That needs to be clarified in my mind. We really need to know in Otero County what our homeless situation is.
“As much as I would love to sign a letter of support to assist veterans this is just way too premature. Our ordinance allows for two acres. I see you’re staking a claim for 160 acres. It brings up a lot questions in my mind.”
Foxhole Homes co-founder Ted Brinegar said they are just asking that the commission acknowledge that their organization is addressing homelessness in Otero County.
“What we’re asking for right now is simply an acknowledgement that Foxhole Homes is working on issues relating to homelessness in Otero County which veterans is a subset,” Brinegar said. “What that will do for us is that it is a key step in us accessing the state department that handles the disposition of surplus property. That will allow Foxhole Homes to access government surplus equipment that is going to help us get key machinery of the development of the infrastructure on the property.”
Williams said the letter of support was essentially to afford them the opportunity to acquire equipment that is inexpensive.
“It would allow us for a non-profit, to make better use for our pennies and that’s really what that letter was for to say that we are who we say we are to do that process,” Williams said. “That’s really what the purpose was, nothing else.”
County approves ordinance on sustainable housing
Eventually, Foxhole Homes will start screening veterans to see who will live in the sustainable community.
“Ideally, this particular plot of land we’re estimating at the moment to house 40 veteran families so about 100 people maximum. Anything more than that and we start to introduce complications of a larger group of people and that’s not what this will support. We’re being careful to manage that number carefully,” Williams said. “Part of the way we see this working is that this is a work-to-build kind of scenario kind of like Habitat for Humanity where before you move into your home, you’re going to help others build theirs as well as yours. Those that aren’t interested in doing that will not be here. We’ll certainly make the opportunity easy for them because we also understand what their challenges are.”
Before they can actually start building, the design will need to be approved by county commissioners.
“Before we can really begin to build we have to have the development laid out, designed and ultimately approved – that’s where our partnership with New Mexico State University comes in,” Williams said. “One of their spring projects to support us is to build that plan for us. We hope to have that in our hands early summer and get it to the commission as fast as we can by the end of the summer so we can be a normal subdivision like everybody else.”
Williams said he understands he commissioner’s objections but he is positive he will get around those issues quickly.
“As far as their objections go, and I understand this is all so new and just beginning and they’re looking for something with a more permanent footprint,” he said. “We see ourselves working through that very quickly.”