Tiny houses provide big solutions

MIKE McGEE | 5/19/2017, 7:51 p.m.
Saving money, improving the environment and the emotional wounds of combat; these were just some of the motivators among the ...
One of the tiny houses on display during the 2017 Earth Day Texas at Fair Park shows the comfort and convenience of a 78 square foot living space. Earth Day Texas

The Dallas Examiner

Saving money, improving the environment and the emotional wounds of combat; these were just some of the motivators among the individuals who decided that joining the growing tiny house movement was the right choice for them.

Additionally, since the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance announced in March that the number of unsheltered homeless increased 47 percent and African Americans make up 58 percent of the homeless population, tiny houses may be a new tool in reducing the number of people living on the streets.

The tiny house lifestyle, a subculture exhibited during the Earth Day Texas exposition at Fair Park, consisted of two “villages” and builders for visitors to explore. The villages provided a place where proponents of the small, mobile and often self-built living spaces constructed from recycled materials opened their homes to the public, answered questions and explained the financial, ecological and emotional appeals of living in accommodations that can be as little as 78 square feet for a single resident.

One group at the event, The Veterans Community Project, is a nonprofit that builds tiny houses as transitional housing for homeless veterans.

“We teamed together because we were all working with veterans, homeless veterans, in various capacities,” noted Bryan Mayer, one of the founders of the project. “We saw a lot of guys and gals falling through the cracks, meaning, they weren’t qualifying for traditional V.A. services or housing programs, or they didn’t want to enter into the existing programs.”

Mayer said it took his organization to narrow down some of the challenges specific to housing veterans where the federal government was falling short.

“A lot of guys don’t like the idea of moving into a traditional shelter because it’s extreme socialization when they come from isolation. They don’t get to keep their things; a lot of guys have pets – they can’t keep those. Additionally, there’s not a lot of continuum of care,” he explained.

The VCP was formed solely with the idea of creating houses through donations rather than government grants so that they could provide unrestricted assistance for those who needed it.

That project is unique in that it involves a fully “online” tiny house community in Kansas City, with further inquiries on the program coming from other cities, organizations or individuals. “What we’re doing is brining on-site services to them, meaning there’s a structure outside the houses – case managers, social workers, and we’ll provide any number of services to the veterans in the village,” the spokesman said.

The VCP has similar elements that service organization CitySquare has provided via The Cedars at Hickory Crossing downtown. The Cedars is an enclave of 12 tiny houses where formerly homeless men receive mental health and other counseling as they regain the skills independent living requires, but within a place that is their own, among a peer group dealing with the same issues they face, much like the VCP community.

“We are just trying to be protective of our ‘neighbors’ privacy as they adjust to life off of the streets,” Lou Ann York of York Communications stated in an email about the small housing development, one of 17 poverty fighting programs established by CitySquare.