October 28, 2017

Tiny homes used for homeless

Christian Science Monitor - Tiny homes are a popular housing trend, popularized by shows like HGTV’s “Tiny House Hunters,” and have been sprouting up as a novel approach to curbing homelessness. But the Cass project marks the first where residents, after paying rent for seven years, will actually be given the deeds to their homes.

“We thought, ‘With an asset they would fare better in the longer term,’ ” says the Rev. Faith Fowler, CCSS’s executive director. “And tiny homes really became the vehicle for that.”

Reverend Fowler, a native Detroiter and longtime pastor at the Cass Community United Methodist Church, has through decades of service earned a reputation as one of Detroit’s most devoted and innovative citizens: Among the various CCSS programs she oversees are projects that employ local homeless people to transform thousands of illegally dumped tires into sandals, doormats, and hanging planters.

Since 2002 the organization has run homeless residency programs. It was in 2013, Fowler says, that she first considered tiny homes. Her mother had recently died, and she was thinking a lot about inheritance – and how the poor often miss out on what can be an important economic safeguard.

Villages of tiny homes for the poor already existed or would soon exist in cities like Portland, Madison, and East Austin. Fowler dreamed of building a community on Cass’s large campus that would provide both housing and assets for Detroiters who needed them most. 

“So do you think anybody will want to live in these?” Fowler remembers a board member asking. 

Last fall, CCSS received 122 completed applications for the initial batch of seven houses. Plans call for a neighborhood of an eventual 25 tiny homes, all with unique designs and their own lots. In the six months after the initial window closed, more than 900 people requested applications. 

“I think it says probably two things,” Fowler says of the demand. “One is that folks are needing good, clean, safe affordable housing. And two is: Everyone has the aspiration to own their home.”

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