While largely associated with the drizzly hotbed of progressive do-goodery otherwise known as the Pacific Northwest, tiny house communities established to provide temporary shelter to the destitute and the displaced aren’t necessarily restricted to any one geographic region.
Infinity Village, one of the latest homeless tent encampments to evolve into a community of transitional micro-homes can be found in Nashville — a tourism-driven Southern city where the tiny house trend has been a touch slow-ish to catch on (“Tiny houses are the next big thing,” proclaimed the Nashville Scene in Oct. 2014) and where dwellings of limited square footage are largely considered as Airbnb-able curiosities.
Enter the Revs. Jeff Obafemi Carr and Dwayne A. Jones, two big-hearted pastors on a dedicated mission to extend the tiny housing movement to those who could really benefit from a solid roof, no matter what the size, over their head.
It doesn’t hurt that, in addition to performing extensive missionary work and overseeing the creation of a community garden in his hometown of Memphis, Jones is a contractor by trade and owns a construction company. A reverend that does roofs ... perfect!
However, Jones’ previous effort to erect a village of micro-homes for the homeless in Memphis, well, yielded tiny results. As the Tennessean explains, Jones was only able to raise $150 for the $15,000 humanitarian project — and $10 of that was donated by a homeless person.
Undeterred, Jones partnered with Carr, a longtime friend who presides over Nashville’s interfaith Infinity Fellowship, to try again.
This time, they set their sights on Carr's home city of Nashville, a booming Middle Tennessee metropolis with a growing homeless population estimated to be over 2,300.
When it came to secure funding for the project, the duo aimed for a significantly higher number than the one attached to Jones’ previous attempt in Memphis: $50,000 — enough to build at least six simple, standalone micro-shelters measuring roughly 60-square-feet each. While the Murphy bed-outfitted single-person shelters aren’t equipped with the features found in standard tiny houses like bathrooms and kitchenettes, they do, in the end, provide privacy, security and a warm and dry place to hunker down for the night, even if ephemeral in nature.
While compact, they’re not short on dignity.
To raise the necessary funds, Carr turned to crowdfunding platform GoFundMe. And to help draw attention to the campaign, Carr moved into one of Jones’ model micro-shelters — and promised backers that he would remain there (“with permission and support from my wife and 5 children”) until the $50,000 goal was successfully met.
Declared Carr on the campaign page: "I will live and work from this model micro-home until we can raise the funds to build 6 to 8 of these same units to donate — free of charge — to homeless citizens in Nashville, TN."
In total, Carr’s stint, an attempt to “practice what I preach,” lasted 45 days. As of publication, the still-active GoFundMe campaign has raised over $65,500.
"I felt good staying here, and safe staying here and protected staying here," Carr recently told the Tennessean, noting that the isolation, separation from his family and the lack of bathroom facilities didn’t exactly make his micro-home sojourn an easy-breezy one. Still, “it felt like home.”
With the funds now available for Jones and his team to build the micro-shelters (they cost roughly $7,500 a pop to construct), the next challenge was to find available land in Nashville in which to situate them; a place in which an informal village of super-small dwellings, complete with communal amenities for showering and cooking, could flourish.
This next step turned out to be not so much of a challenge at all.
The Green Street Church of Christ, a congregation in industrial South Nashville with a longstanding — and at times contentious — mission to provide transitional housing to Music City’s most vulnerable residents, embraced the micro-shelters with open arms through its Tent Ministry program, a program which maintains a so-called “sanctuary property” adjacent to the church itself. While Green Street Church of Christ's sanctuary — a "drug-free, alcohol-free, drama-free environment" — has traditionally been home to a homeless tent encampment, it’s now also home to six cheerfully hued micro-dwellings outfitted with heating/cooling units, microwaves and mini-fridges. Among them is the unit that Carr, a reverend and family man normally accustomed to more spacious digs, lived in himself.
Based on the success of Nashville’s Infinity Village, Jones has returned his attention to Memphis where he hopes to give things another shot. He recently launched his own GoFundMe Campaign to build six larger micro-homes, these ones equipped with small bathrooms and kitchens, costing about $10,000 each to build.
Back in Nashville, the Green Street Church of Christ is open to hosting even more micro-homes given that the sanctuary is large enough to comfortably accommodate 25 of them. Additional fundraising would enable Carr and the Infinity Fellowship, with Jones’ construction expertise, to occupy the space with additional shelters. Carr also plans to identify other areas throughout Nashville in which to potentially establish similar villages. “We’d love to pepper this yard with houses,” Tripp Hunt, an attorney for Green Street Church of Christ, tells the Tennessean while emphasizing the transitional nature of the sanctuary/Infinity Village. “This is a way station — a place to rest.”
Ironically, the most vocal champion of Infinity Village is a not-so-fleeting fixture at the sanctuary. Although he's since moved into one of the new micro-homes, Roger McGue, 54, has lived in a tent on church-owned land for over three years. And because he's been there for so long, he fancies himself as a sort of mother hen/mayoral figure for the community.
Speaking to the press, McGue has difficulty containing his excitement over the new structures. "When you're homeless, people promise you things all the time," he tells the Nashville Scene. "They got in it," he explains, referring to Carr and Jones. "They did this for us. Not for themselves. That's what love is all about."
Via [The Tennessean], [The Nashville Scene]