Tiny homes: ‘An ecosystem for people’
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
At least 130 individuals or families who have fallen on hard times will soon have an opportunity to jump start their lives back to normalcy.
Their option is The Dwellings, a community of tiny houses that is being constructed off Highway 20. The first 30 of the houses on the 30-acre property have been completed and will be opened for residents soon.
The development of the tiny houses is the brainchild of Rick Kearney, a Tallahassee businessman who built the Kearney Center for the homeless and West Gate apartments for people in transition. The tiny houses are an extension of his mission to reduce homelessness, he said.
“It will be a safe (place for) people who want to get their lives on track and stay on track,” Kearney said. “This is a social need in our community and what we have been doing is working effectively.”
Not every applicant for the tiny houses has to be homeless. Consideration also will be given to people who face difficulty in attaining housing because of situations such as past eviction or even having a checkered history with the law, Kearney said.
“We can provide them an in-take place but we need an inventory of housing for people to stabilize their lives,” Kearney said. “We are building an ecosystem for people to become independent; get back to a normal way of life.”
Unlike the Kearney Center and West Gate which are funded by donors and government, Kearney said he is financing the tiny community himself. He eventually hopes to get some funding from the HUD, he said.
The site for The Dwellings was chosen because of its proximity of about four miles from the Kearney Center and in an area where residents might find jobs, said Chuck White, a consultant for the project.
The size of the houses ranges 160 to 400 square feet and they are about 10 feet apart. Each one is completely furnished with some having cooking utensils. The larger houses have a loft that is laid out like an office but could be used as a bedroom.
When all of the buildings are completed, the area will resemble a self-contained community. Plans call for a community center where residents could do arts and craft projects.
The center also will have a Laundromat, a commercial kitchen, a library and a general store.
A community garden also is in the works, White said. Counseling also will be available to residents who need it, he said.
“We are hoping to create a strong and vibrant community of folks with a happy existence,” White said, adding that there will be security on the property.
Getting into the tiny houses will require signing up for Kearney’s Comprehensive Emergency Center program. Rent will range from $400 to about $800, White said.
Each house could be lived in by an individual or a small family, White said.
“They are not designed to be filled up with friends and relatives who are not paying rent and are not involved in our program,” he said. “We are not freely renting these units. We are offering program agreements.
“We are hoping to create a strong and vibrant community of folks with a happy existence.”