Tucked behind Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon is an active construction site.
“We had this lot,” said Pastor Rolland Slade. “All we were doing was growing tumbleweeds and harvesting them every six weeks and putting them in the dumpster so this was a great use for that.”
Amikas, a local non-profit, is working to build mini homes for homeless mothers in the church’s empty lot.
The group has spent the last five years working to convince local city leaders that mini cabins were the way to go.
“[We had] a lot of ups and downs, a lot of highs and lows where we thought we had property and then we didn't, trying to work with the city,” said Lisa Krogen, Amika’s treasurer. “There was just a lot going on and there were times when we felt like it was never going to happen.”
Until it did.
After getting the greenlight from Meridian Church to build a demonstration cabin on their site, the group took their plan to the city council. Last August the city of El Cajon approved a pilot program through December 2023 that would allow for a total of six cabins.
“This is going to change people's lives,” said Krogen. “This is going to help people get out of homelessness and back into society.”
Amikas received the building permit in January and began work at the site last month.
“It's really exciting, it's energizing to work with other folks who are all trying to make a difference, make an impact,” said Tom Abram, one of the volunteers on the site.
Once completed, Home Start, a non-profit that provides housing programs for young mothers, will refer clients to stay in the cabins.
“Other people can take a look at what we’re doing and maybe this can be done in other parts of the United States to get people off the streets,” said Krogen.
The cabins are 12 feet by 12 feet with a porch and 96 square feet of living space. They will have electricity but no plumbing. Tenants will be able to use the church’s facilities.
“The church is a community hub and a place in the community for the community,” said Pastor Slade.