Category Archives: Homelessness

10/27 Ordinance would allow for tiny houses for veterans

tiny house under construction for Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin

tiny house under construction for Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin

In front of a crowded room on Wednesday, the Racine Plan Commission recommended that the city create an ordinance to allow for a tiny-house village for veterans.

Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin is planning on placing 15 tiny houses on 1624 Yout St. as temporary housing for homeless veterans. The organization is seeking a rezoning and a conditional use permit to operate a transitional living facility at the location.

The commission recommended the City Council create an ordinance and set a public hearing in November.

“We’re preparing an ordinance because nothing like this has ever been done before,” Mayor John Dickert said. “This is a very laser-focused ordinance … this is a very specific, veteran-specific ordinance.”

Jeff Gustin, co-founder of Veterans Outreach, said he’s thrilled with the outcome.

“Our working relationship with the city has grown,” Gustin said. “We’re all on the same page and we all have the best interest of our veterans in need.”

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09/20 Tiny Homes May Hold Key to Breaking Poverty Cycle

tiny house in Detroit, part of Cass Community Social Services

tiny house in Detroit, part of Cass Community Social Services

For the formerly homeless and those living at or below the poverty line, qualifying for a mortgage and becoming a homeowner is more of a dream than a reality.

A social movement known as the “tiny house trend,” which offers people smaller but more efficient space with a reduced carbon footprint, has made the dream a reality for some; for other who make between $10,000 to $15,000 a year that may not qualify for Habitat for Humanity homes or their own mortgage, the price tags are still out of reach.

Fortunately, cities such as Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; Madison, Wisconsin; Seattle, Washington, and Ithaca, New York have built tiny house communities for people who are homeless or qualify as low-income households.

Dignity Village in Portland has used tiny houses to shelter 60 people a night since 2001, and claims to be the oldest city-supported community housing program. And, in Detroit—a city with an abundance of abandoned buildings and vacant lots—one nonprofit is offering people who might not otherwise be able to find a stable, better life for their family a way to rent their way to homeownership.

“We saw that we could build these houses relatively inexpensively and people could operate with very small bills,” said Rev. Faith Fowler, executive director of Cass Community Social Services, which provides, food, housing, job programs and healthcare to people in Detroit.

Renters will pay $300 a month plus electricity, which is expected to be a maximum of $35 a month. After three years, residents become eligible for a rent-to-own agreement that can make them homeowners after a total of seven years in the house. The first 300 square foot house was completed in September and six more houses are set to be be built by the end of October, with the first seven renters set to be moving in just in time for Thanksgiving.

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06/02 Ministry attempting to withdraw tiny house community plans after opposition

Rev. Barry Kidwell and his daughter, Kathleen, feed rabbits at the farm owned by Mustard Tree Ministries that was proposed as a site for 32 tiny homes.

Rev. Barry Kidwell and his daughter, Kathleen, feed rabbits at the farm owned by Mustard Tree Ministries that was proposed as a site for 32 tiny homes. Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

A ministry for homeless people announced Thursday it would withdraw its plans to build a community of 32 affordable “tiny homes” in rural Ooltewah [TN] where renters could live, work and raise food.

But Chester Bankston, the Hamilton County commissioner for Ooltewah who opposes the tiny home project, said he won’t let Mustard Tree Ministries pull the plans. That’s because Bankston expects county commissioners will vote it down at its June 8 and June 15 meetings, which would kill the proposal for at least a year. If Mustard Tree pulls the plan, he said, the ministry could resubmit sooner.

“They can’t [withdraw],” Bankston said. “That’s my decision.”

The proposal already got a thumbs down on May 9 from the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission, which by a 13-2 vote recommended against allowing the United Methodist Church-backed ministry to build a cluster of 300-square-foot homes on a 17-acre farm once used to house the Lighthouse United Methodist Church near the corner of Snow Hill and Mahan Gap roads.

The planners’ no vote came after more than 1,800 signatures opposing the project were presented by three Ooltewah-area homeowner groups.

“This has the most opposition of anything I’ve dealt with,” said Bankston, who’s served for six years as county commissioner. “I’m here to represent my people, and my people say, ‘No.'”

The proposed tiny homes would have rented for $250 t0 $300 a month, “which we believe actually fulfills a dire need in our community for more affordable housing,” reads a statement from the Rev. Barry Kidwell, the United Methodist pastor who heads Mustard Tree Ministries.

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06/01 Building up tiny houses to break down asset inequality

A tiny house model. Cass Community Social Services of Detroit

A tiny house model.
Cass Community Social Services of Detroit

Soon, tiny houses will start popping up in Detroit. Construction on the first house is slated to begin within two weeks. The goal is to provide homes for some of the city’s homeless, senior citizens and students who have aged out of foster care.

Cass Community Social Services of Detroit is behind the project. Executive Director Reverend Faith Fowler said the plan is to build 25 houses on the vacant land surrounding the community center. That’s provided volunteer help and funding come through.

Hear Fowler talk about what this project could mean for people of low-income below.

Fowler said these houses will provide people with low incomes a valuable asset – one they can eventually sell, use as collateral, or leave to their families.

She said lately you hear a lot of talk about income inequality, “but next to none about asset inequality.”

“And without an asset, people easily slip into and stay in poverty,” she said. “And so if we can find ways for them to create a financial safety net, maybe through homes, maybe through savings accounts – I mean, there are many ways to approach it – but I really wanted to do something that had a long-term impact on poor people so that they could enjoy part of the American dream.”

The plan is to have a person rent the home for seven years at a “very modest amount” based on house size.

“We then will act as the landlord during that time, using their rent money to pay their taxes, their insurance, their water, their security system,” Fowler said.

After seven years of renting, the resident will own the house.

“They won’t have to pay rent anymore and so they’ll be able to use that money to pay the things we were having to pay,” she said. “And so we think we’ve set them up for success.”

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05/25 Board denies variance for tiny house community for veterans; nonprofit vows to reapply

It was standing room only at the Land Use Board meeting as attorney for OCEAN Inc. Stephen Smith described the micro housing development of 24 units, ten of which would be set aside for veterans.

It was standing room only at the Land Use Board meeting as attorney for OCEAN Inc. Stephen Smith described the micro housing development of 24 units, ten of which would be set aside for veterans.
Photo by Pat Johnson.

The Tuckerton [New Jersey] Land Use Board took its cue from the residents of Paradise Cove and Tuckerton Estates and turned away a potential affordable housing project that would have provided 10 homeless veterans a safe haven for life.

On May 19, the board decided with a vote of five to two to deny a use variance needed for the project to go forward.

On Monday, OCEAN Inc. Executive Director Ted Gooding said the nonprofit dedicated to improving community in Ocean County would not abandon the project. “We will reapply, we will tweak the application and be back, we do not intend to walk away.”

At the start of the May 19 meeting, Gooding said the last time he and his attorney had come to the board, back in April, their application for a use variance had been carried, but because he wanted to hear the concerns of the nearby residents, he had met with them outside. After hearing concerns about how close the development to some houses in Tuckerton Estates would be, he decided to change the application for the use variance from 35 detached micro houses to 24 and leave more of the site nearest the existing houses wooded and untouched.

OCEAN Inc. bifurcated the proceedings into this attempt to receive a land use variance, with a more developed site plan to follow. The reason they did this was to first be sure the town was in agreement with their plan before paying the engineer and an architect to develop the plans.

The 6.8-acre site on the northwest side of Route 9 is zoned general business but also is conditionally approved for cluster, attached housing.

OCEAN Inc. needs the use variance because what it is proposing is detached cluster housing with a small community center.

According to a land use board member who wanted to remain anonymous, questions to Gooding and OCEAN Inc. attorney Stephen Smith by the board were answered too vaguely for approval.

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05/14 Tiny House Trailers for Non-Profits Program

students building a tiny house

Massachusetts YouthBuild Coalition is constructing two tiny homes which will be used to provide housing for homeless veterans. YB students from across Massachusetts have jumped in to help people in need who have served their country, but fallen on difficult times.

Tumbleweed wants to help your school or non-profit build its very own Tiny House RV! We work with non-profits throughout the year and offer our high quality Tumbleweed Trailer at a discount.

Tumbleweed Trailer of your choosing
$200 off your purchase
FREE Plans ($759 value)
FREE Dormer and Stair Plans
Attaching your Tiny House RV to Trailer guide
Customer support

Have questions? You can reach us at or (877) 331-8469

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04/27 The surprising effects of a tiny house community on the surrounding neighborhood

Neighbor Chadwick Barnes talks about the neighborhood before and after OM village

Neighbor Chadwick Barnes talks about the neighborhood before and after OM village

Many people fear that a tiny house community, particularly one for the homeless, will harm their neighborhood and drop their property values. This video describes the village of Occupy Madison and the reactions of some neighbors.

Watch the video:

04/15 At Purdue, a big goal leads to a tiny home

Purdue student building a tiny house

Purdue student building a tiny house. To watch the video, click the link at the bottom of the post.

It was a simple question, but by no means an easy one to answer: How do you want to change the world? Kirk Alter, an associate professor at Purdue University, put that query before the students in his Monday night class in sustainable construction. And putting their heads together, those students came up with a plan. “This year they decided they wanted to look at the community, and they wanted to address the issue of housing,” Alter said. “Specifically, housing for people in three demographics: the homeless, people re-entering [society] from prison and battered women.” To help address those issues, the students wanted to build a tiny home, a showcase for the growing movement that says “build better, not bigger.”

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04/06 Tiny house raffle, $20 for a chance to win a tiny house

interior of tiny houseOn May 10, Lamon Luther will give away a tiny house to launch its charitable foundation to provide housing for its homeless employees.

The socially conscious enterprise has been providing jobs for the homeless in West Atlanta, Georgia, since its inception in 2012 making custom, one-of-a-kind furniture pieces using new and reclaimed wood. Hiring its first employee, TC, who had been homeless for 15 years, taught entrepreneur and Lamon Luther founder, Brian Preston, how crucial job creation is for breaking the cycle of chronic homelessness.

Since its inception, Lamon Luther has provided more than 78,000 man hours of meaningful work. Today, the social enterprise has been hired to provide community tables for the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium and partners with one of the largest furniture retailers in the U.S., West Elm, which is owned by Williams-Sonoma, for a handmade line. The company is setting its sights on a different type of growth in 2016 and beyond: housing for its homeless employees and 100 new craftsmen.

“We believe that homeless people can add tremendous value to society,” said Preston. “Craftsmanship is an incredible tool to restore dignity and hope for those affected. In addition to making tables and other furniture pieces, we get asked to build tiny houses all the time. What better way to share our vision for housing for homeless people than seeing the boom of the tiny house market and applying our unique skill and passion to a custom home giveaway?”

Instead of using popular crowdfunding techniques like Kickstarter or Indie-gogo, Preston and his team decided to launch a sweepstakes. From now until May 10th, residents of the United States can visit and enter to win a 20-foot, custom tiny house. Users can enter multiple times throughout the sweepstakes period by making a $20 donation. The tiny house is worth approximately $30,000.

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03/03 A call for new tools to fix affordable housing

man at a crossroad
…The post-housing-crash world is very different from the housing world we had before the crash. We now have fewer grants to create affordable housing; HUD’s housing budget is constantly being cut; land is more expensive; and investors have great resources of capital to buy land and buildings, speculating that these values will continue to increase. Last summer an investor bought three acres 10 minutes from downtown for under $300,000. He now has it on the market for more than $1 million. The affordable housing that was on this property is gone, and the tremendously increased new price makes it difficult to impossible to build affordable housing on it.

But there are some positives in this post-recession environment. Specifically, we have two new factors working for us that were not there before the housing crash. First, the millennials have arrived. They are a wonderfully creative bunch who actively seek to reshape parts of our culture for the better. A surprising number of millennials hold a deep belief in and commitment to living sustainably and reducing their carbon footprint. They are looking for green, energy-efficient, smaller homes that are less costly to own and run than the big homes they grew up in.

The second positive post-recession change is the popularization of the smaller home. Tiny and micro homes work well for millennials, downsizing boomers, and singles and couples of all ages. Plus these smaller homes hold great potential to address the housing needs of Nashville’s lowest-income groups: our special-needs citizens and those living only on Social Security. Micro homes give these populations the independence they desire and need, and when built in a community they allow their social-service workers economies of scale. These homes can be used in a modified format to house the homeless and our lower-income elderly seeking to stay independent.

But guess what? We, like most cities in America, are not ready to release these tiny and micro homes in our residential neighborhoods. Like most cities, we have zoning laws from a former time when density was bad, land was much cheaper, and keeping the status quo was all-important. We are now in a new era. Since the crash, our world of real estate has become much more expensive, and more people than ever want to live in the city. We need to catch our land laws up to where society is today. If we make these legal changes and embrace these new popular housing types and new housing demands, we will be able to create needed new good, decent, safe, affordable housing options in Nashville.

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