Big ups Carmen Guidi and crew!

Second Wind Cottages expands

By Jaime Cone
Ithaca Times

February 17, 2017

Second Wind Cottages, the cluster of tiny houses that provide shelter for homeless men on Elmira Road in Newfield, will continue to expand this summer with the addition of three more cottages.

In addition, Carmen Guidi, director of Second Wind, says that the nonprofit plans to build an entirely new facility located just up the street that will house exclusively women and children. He said Second Wind already owns the land and that it’s an ideal location because, like the original site, it’s also located on the bus route.

But that’s not for another couple of years, Guidi said. For now Second Wind is focusing on the original men’s campus. The first six cottages went up in fall 2013, and three more have been added each year for a current total of 12. They will add three this summer and another three in 2018 to reach their final goal of 18 residences.

Each tiny house costs roughly $12,000 to $15,000 to build, and community members are invited every year to help out with the construction. Second Wind’s annual operating budget is about $132,000, Guidi said, pointing out that after the next six cottages are built the nonprofit can turn its attention to hiring staff and other issues.

There are no stipulations on how long a resident can live at the cottages, and some of them have been residing there since they opened while six others have been able to move on to traditional housing. Second Wind does not turn away the most difficult to place felons, including arsonists and sex offenders.

They pay rent as they are able to help meet operating expenses. Six of the twelve men living at Second Wind are currently employed, including Scott Goodrich, who was recently hired for a construction job. Prior to that, he said, he was recently offered a job at Home Depot before management conducted a background check and informed him that it was against company policy to hire someone convicted of the felony of Grand Larceny.

Goodrich, who is originally from Ithaca, said he skipped town after he was charged with embezzling from his employer. According to published reports, a warrant was issued for his arrest in March 2015 after he was a no-show in court. He said he travelled all the way to the West Coast and lived at multiple homeless shelters before taking a Greyhound bus home and turning himself in.

After seven months in jail he found himself homeless again until he applied to live at Second Wind in November. He has battled drug addiction but says he has been sober for over one year, and he’s currently focused on paying his restitution to the company he stole from. It’s the nonjudgemental support of the staff, he said, that has had the biggest impact on him when it comes to turning his life around.

The most recent addition to Second Wind is a small administrative building donated by Cornell through the help of the Ithaca ReUse Center. It just opened December 17 and has offices, a kitchenette, and washing machines and dryers for the residents to use.

“It’s a huge deal for us to have a place that’s not their own space where we can interface with them and the community can come in,” Guidi said.

“It makes a big difference,” agreed Sarah Widercrantz, Second Wind Cottages Board of Directors and treasurer. “Before we would have been sitting in a truck to meet with you.”

Guidi said the ultimate goal is to build a much larger on-site facility where the residents can learn various trades and sell the resulting wares.

The story began after a working trip to Haiti, when Guidi went to “The Jungle” one day with a stack of pizzas for the homeless people living there and formed fast friendships with many of them, which led to urgent efforts to find them housing.

“I was housing men in campers, and it was astronomically expensive, but it was one of these situations where at the time something had to be done,” Guidi said. “People were dying outside.”

The biggest hurdle to placing men in permanent housing was not lack of money for rent. Rather, Guidi said he found that many landlords refuse to rent to people with criminal histories, regardless of their financial situation. In an effort to provide immediate shelter for six homeless men he knew, he built the first six tiny houses that would soon multiply and become Second Wind Cottages.

He says that there’s still room for improvement. According to Guidi, while the number of homeless people in Ithaca went down the year he started Second Wind, it has since continued to rise, with a number of people continuing to live in the “The Jungle,” a homeless camp behind Ithaca’s big box stores. Guidi said the housing his organization provides is not enough.

“If you don’t have anything to combat the problem, the numbers are going to continue to grow,” he said, “until you start to implement more things.”

For further info about Second Wind Cottages:
"Everything that has ever happened to us is there to make us stronger."
-John Trudell