Duwara Foundation plans North County co-op to help homeless

The project could be in operation within the year and would create job opportunities and living quarters in tiny homes


Having successfully launched a food trailer and mobile shower to serve homeless people in San Diego County, the nonprofit Duwara Consciousness Foundation is ramping up fundraising for its most ambitious project yet, a cooperative farm with housing somewhere in North County.

“We’d like to push forward on a property in the next couple of months,” said Harisimran Kaur Khalsa, co-founder of the foundation with her husband, Davinder Singh. “Our legal team is doing their due diligence, and they haven’t found any issues.”

A 29-acre site in an unincorporated area of North County is being eyed for the project, but the couple isn’t disclosing the exact location just yet and said they are open to other properties. A GoFundMe page for the foundation’s “Seeding Success” campaign already has raised about $157,000 toward a goal of $700,000.

The couple describe the co-op as a place where people facing homelessness can find a safe, healing environment to work and live in a community with others. People will have their own living space in tiny homes but will eat in a communal dining hall. Lodging, food and even Wi-Fi and phone expenses will be covered. When not working on the farm, people will have time to attend night school at the end of the day.

The food they will grow will be used in meals served at the foundation’s food trailer, and other produce from the farm will earn money for the co-op. People won’t get a regular paycheck while working there, but when they are ready to leave, they will get one payout based on how long they worked and the farm’s earning during that time...

...Khalsa said up to 75 tiny homes someday may be on the property, but the farm will start much smaller with a cohort of about 30 people. Because there will be manual work involved, she said the farm will not be for everybody.

The couple also said that the cooperative will not be a homeless shelter, but instead would be more properly described as farmworker housing, but with individual homes.

“Once someone comes onto the land, they are in fact no longer homeless,” Khalsa said. “We’re trying to avoid associating the ‘H word’ with the project.”...

...“We’re giving a resting place for individuals who have gotten into hard times,” he said. “If they get money in their pocket after two, six or 12 months, that’s a bonus. But our main aim is to give someone a resting place before they go down that rabbit hole of depression or addiction. Once they’ve taken a breath, they can move on.”

Money donated for the project so far has come from some of the foundation’s steady supporters, and the couple plan to promote their fundraising campaign more as the project comes closer to reality.

Inspired by their Sikh faith, the couple began helping homeless people by bringing food to Joe Balderrama Park in Oceanside in 2018. After being told they needed a special-event permit to continue the feedings, they decided to aim higher and formed the foundation. Duwara is Sanskrit for “gates to consciousness, ” and the nonprofit’s mission is described as teaching compassion, providing hunger relief and promoting equality...

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