Homelessness is on the rise in many U.S. cities, in part due to a lack of affordable housing. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, some 600,000 people are homeless. Many cities lack the capacity to provide adequate shelter, and in some instances, local laws criminalize sleeping in public spaces. Homeless populations are also vulnerable to criminal abuses.
In Nashville, official numbers suggest 2,300 people are homeless; others predict this to be closer to 8,000. To support Nashville’s homeless community, the Green Street Church of Christ offers meals and support, and a safe and permanent space to pitch roughly 30 tents, called the Sanctuary. A few years ago, Pastor Jeff Carr began working with the Sanctuary, and together with the church, decided to construct 6 ‘tiny homes.’ Using GoFundMe.com, Carr raised $66,967 to construct the 6 initial homes in under 2 months – spending that time living in one of the tiny homes, which largely resemble tool sheds.
At 6×10 feet, the tiny homes are tiny. They are small wooden structures, brightly painted, with red or green doors and white trim. They have a porch and a trailer hitch, making them mobile, but lack electricity, heating or water hookups. Residents use the church lavatories and shower outside with a hose. But it’s a step up from a tent, or sleeping on the streets – especially in the winter. Most importantly, they offer a sense of dignity, permanence and security, thanks to door locks and watchful neighbors. As local resident Peter Regan stated on Aljazeera, “It’s great knowing you can lock your stuff up and it’s going to be there when you come back.”
Most Sanctuary residents call it a temporary solution, until they can afford their own home. Likewise, Nashville’s Vanderbilt University found in a recent study that the most effective solution to homelessness is to grant housing-choice vouchers, enabling families to live in market-rate apartments. However, these vouchers are difficult to come by. With little city money for anti-homelessness programmes, the tiny homes offer a helpful “stepping stone to homefulness” as Carr stated in The Atlantic. At $7000 for construction, they provide a temporary solution to homelessness in fast-growing cities with high-climbing rents.