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Windsor Park Elementary students debate tiny homes for the homeless

Windsor Park mock council.png
Posted at 7:31 AM, Nov 12, 2021

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — It’s like an average home, just smaller. Not quite as small as the kid-size playhouse you might’ve had once upon a time — it's a little bigger than that.

These homes can be found in Austin and across the country, and often are used to provide homes for the homeless.

A few years ago, then-city council member and current Corpus Christi Mayor Paulette Guajardo took a trip to Austin to visit tiny homes there when considering them as an option for some of Corpus Christi's homeless population.

She said the idea didn’t gain traction because the city didn’t find a feasible location or operator.

However, on Thursday, third-grade students from Windsor Park Elementary School in Corpus Christi debated on whether they think the tiny homes should be brought to Corpus Christi.

“At first I thought it was a bad idea, and then once I heard everybody’s speeches, then I was like, I think I should become a 'pro',” third-grader Mia Arriaga said.

Although, Mayor Mia Arriaga is a more accurate title. Students from the elementary school were voted in by their classmates to act as city officials for the day. They even got to sit in the real council members’ seats.

Angel Rivera acted as city manager. He got to hear his classmates’ arguments for and against the tiny homes, and voted in favor for the small sanctuaries.

“It will help by clearing up downtown from homeless people bothering tourists,” he said.

Many of the other students who were in favor of the tiny homes argued that the homeless would have a safe place to live and because of that, it would add more people to workforce.

But not everybody on the mock council was in favor of the tiny homes. Many argued it would be too costly to build the houses and the homeless might not take care of the houses.

“I voted 'no,' because there would be a lot of taxes being paid," said Zinachidi Mbadugha. "There’s still the risk of diseases, and crime and safety.”

Marilena Garza is a homeless advocate who lives in Corpus Christi. She runs The Free Store, a store that gives away items such as clothes to the homeless. She is in favor of the tiny homes because she said it was more cost effective than building a shelter.

“People are very quick to pass judgment on our homeless friends and say ‘Why don’t you get a job?’ ‘Why don’t you sign up for disability?’ " she said. "It’s kind of hard to do that when you don’t have a permanent address."

Garza, who grew up fighting for societal change with family, has called the city council many times, saying she even shows up to where they eat in order to get their attention. She said she won’t stop until the homeless in Corpus Christi get the proper care they need.

She also said she is bothered by council members' ability to walk past the homeless living across the street from City Hall.

"I just don’t understand how you can come to work and see the problem everyday, and (think) 'It’s OK, I guess,' " she said.