CHIPPEWA FALLS — Two more small homeless shelters known as tiny homes will be going up in Chippewa Falls.
The Chippewa Falls City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to allow Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, 1300 Mansfield St. on the city’s West Hill, to place up to two tiny homes on its property.
Mike Cohoon, pastor at Landmark Christian Church in Lake Hallie, has led the effort to place the tiny homes in the community. Cohoon told the council they’ve had success in finding permanent housing for people who have stayed in the temporary shelters.
Before the vote, the council held a public hearing on permitting the tiny homes. Ten community members attended the council meeting; Mayor Greg Hoffman asked for a show of hands for those who were in favor of the plan, and everyone in attendance raised their hands. No one besides Cohoon spoke to the council on the measure.
At a meeting last month, Cohoon said the six existing tiny homes have provided about 2,000 nights of service in the past 18 months, with 17 different people living in them.
The city has now given permission for six tiny homes in the city — two each at three churches in town. There also are two tiny homes at Landmark Christian Church.
The church is near McDonell High School and Chippewa Falls Middle School. Cohoon said both school systems have written letters endorsing the tiny homes being placed at the church.
Last November, the council voted 6-1 to approve a conditional use permit for two tiny homes at Chippewa Valley Bible Church, 531 E. South Ave., on the south side of the city. The council had rejected the permit in October because several council members expressed their concerns about the tiny homes being close to Halmstad Elementary School, but a huge turnout of supporters the following month led to the council changing gears and approving them.
A tiny home is about 8 feet by 12 feet in size, and mobile on a trailer, featuring a chemical toilet, heater, chair, table and bed. Each house costs between $5,000 and $7,000 to complete, including construction and furnishings.
In February 2017, the City Council approved a conditional permit for two tiny homes to be placed at Trinity United Methodist Church, 201 W. Central St., in downtown.
Chippewa Falls hasn’t had a homeless shelter since Harmony House closed in February 2014. The Chippewa Falls Mission Coalition — a group of 17 area churches — has been working on ways to fill the void since Harmony House closed.
People staying in tiny homes need to pass a background check first.
The City Council created an ordinance in February 2017 to allow tiny homes to be operated in city limits. The permit states the portable toilet must be emptied daily in the church’s bathroom. It also states there is a zero-tolerance policy on illegal activities, and alcohol, illegal drugs and guns or other weapons are banned from the homes.
Other rules stated in the special use permit include that no outside guests are allowed, cars must be parked in parking lots and not on lawns, and no open flames — including candles or cigarettes — are allowed inside, and the guests will lock the door whenever they leave the premises.
City inspector Paul Lasiewicz told the Plan Commission last month he has not received any calls or heard any concerns with the tiny homes in the 18 months they have been operating.
Paper lantern ban
The council also had a first reading on an ordinance that bans “open-flame candles and fixtures,” which includes airborne “sky lanterns.” It refers to any airborne lantern typically constructed from paper with a wood, metal or cardboard frame containing a candle or fuel cell composed of a waxy, flammable material or other open flame that serves as a heat source to heat the inside of the lantern to cause it to lift into the air.
The ordinance prohibits them being launched, used of free-floating in the city limits.
The council will vote on the measure at its meeting Tuesday, Sept. 18.