Updated: Jan 4, 2020
It began with a simple search for tiny homes in California. Suddenly I see this beautiful blonde with the warmest smile who had her own divine download to pick up a hammer, with zero construction experience and build free tiny homes for the 2018 Camp Fire victims.
The Camp Fire in Butte County began at the foothill town of Paradise and was the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history. It killed nearly 100 civilians, spread over 150,000 acres, destroyed nearly 19,000 structures, and when the fire ended, it was the largest search and rescue ever conducted in California.
PG&E, the utility company responsible for the faulty power line that caused the fire, filed for bankruptcy, citing expected wildfire liabilities of $30 billion. The 17 day fire of epic proportions even filled San Francisco with smoke closing down my daughter's elementary school. With her respiratory issues, we bought masks and stayed inside for a week to maintain her breathing. I can't even imagine how thick the smoke was and how scary it must have been for people of beautiful Butte County.
Rising from the ash came Alyssa Nolan. Alyssa is a fire survivor herself, losing her home in the 2008 Butte Lightning Complex. Between her and her mother, they have been burned out of their homes four times. If anyone understands the loss, trauma and road to recovery from a devastating fire it is Alyssa.
She is also a single mother of three, with no car, and some how manages to spend her spare time, despite her day job and motherhood, building free tiny homes for the homeless of Butte County. Her operations are in an empty parking lot in Oroville, CA and she builds with volunteer labor, donated materials and sponsored home builds at $7,000 per tiny home. Please consider signing up to volunteer building on her Tiny Homes for Camp Fire Survivors Facebook page or donating directly to their GoFundMe page.
Alyssa's compassion and determination to make a difference for the people of her town was so inspiring to me she literally, single-handedly, punched my soul with her kindness to the point of motivating me to create a tiny home business. I had been struggling as a single mother/solo parent (100% custody, 100% financial responsibility) in tech in San Francisco had was desperate to find a way of the rat wheel of startup life, Bay Area housing costs, and the deep desire to plant roots and have a home of my own with my 6-year-old daughter Sofia.
This was it. I was already working on a home decor collection and Alyssa just pushed me right over the edge to take it up a notch and throw my hat in the ring to help solve the California Housing Crisis along with fire relief. My dream business just got 1000x BIGGER! Great job Cristina, you're dormant for a decade after closing your high-fashion boutiques and now you want to build homes and hack the housing crisis??? WTF????
I knew it was a big dream, but Alyssa woke me the fuck up and reminded me how much I love California and my SF Bay Area hometown. I call it my divine download and have not had a good night's sleep since. And as someone who has been homeless twice, once as a teen and once as a mother to a toddler surviving a catastrophic divorce, it had almost felt that my whole life was leading up to this point.
And so it began. And I am forever grateful for community heroes like Alyssa Nolan for doing the hard work on the ground floor to help her neighbors, in fact 500 neighbors on her waitlist hoping for a free tiny home of their own. Some of these folks are veterans, families, students, some even living in cars and tents still one year later, as of Thanksgiving 2019. I still think of them every time the rains comes down hence the sleepless nights. And so this is my motivation to push through obstacles, gather all the resources of the tech community, and continue to persevere.
This isn't my first rodeo. In fact, it's the third company I have owned. And the timing couldn't be any better for a female founder to tackle the old boys club of construction. And there you have it, Hearth Homes. Because home is where the heart is no matter the size or location. And Alyssa is building tiny homes with all the heart in the world, and I'm going to do everything in my power to help. Which is why a portion of our home sales goes directly to her. And I continue to call upon the gods and goddesses of tech to also use their resources to take care of our home. Even if you are a transplant, if NorCal is now where you call home, you have an obligation to care for and protect your new home and neighbors. And I truly hope that you do.