The Harlan County Community Action Agency and COAP Inc. are teaming up to build tiny houses for temporary transitional homeless housing in Harlan County.
HCCAA Director Donna Pace said they have applied for several small grants to get this project rolling.
“We applied to CSX, Kentucky Utilities, Walmart and a private foundation,” said Pace. “We are trying to fund this ourselves so the project doesn’t have the restrictions and things such as qualifications to enter transitional housing and limits of time to stay and that type of thing that other grants require. We want to be able to work with families one-on-one. Some grants put such stringent requirements and time limits it’s almost impossible to accomplish everything you need to in the time they want you to. Some families need more time than others to get established.”
COAP Director Blake Enlow said the plan is to build possibly two 12 x 20, one bedroom, one bath homes for a homeless person or couple to stay in until they can be permanently housed in our community.
“Harlan County, as of now, does not have any homeless housing available,” said Enlow. “We are very fortunate to have a kitchen that serves meals to the homeless run by Christ Hands, but we have no temporary houses for the homeless to stay in until the local agencies can find a more permanent fix to their housing need.”
Enlow said these “tiny houses” will not be permanent accommodations for families, but a temporary transitional home until individuals or families can get on their feet. He said the homes will be furnished and have the feel of an apartment.
“The idea we are trying to fund is to build these small homes to get our homeless out of the weather and into housing,” Enlow added.
Pace said HCCAA operates two homeless programs through the Kentucky Housing Corporation. One of these programs is permanent housing and is for homeless individuals with a disability. Participants are required to meet HUD guidelines for homeless and have to literally come from a shelter or off the street and it has to be documented Pace said. They can also be a domestic violence survivor with documentation she added.
“Another program we have is short-term housing and it is usually three months at a time,” said Pace. “We can place people, pay their rent, but they have to be homeless. Sometimes it takes time to find housing for these people and if they are not totally disabled they will have to start paying their own rent. These people need case management working with them.”
Pace said with this new idea for tiny transitional housing she sees taking the homeless of the street, placing them in the tiny houses, offering them case management counseling to help them find more permanent housing.
“If they file for disability benefits or whatever they need, the case managers will help them get into a more stable situation,” said Pace. “These houses will be built and maintained by COAP and we will provide the land and case management.”
Enlow said what funds they receive from individuals in the program will go into a fund to maintain the houses and property. He added, those participating in the program can also provide work on the property and other things they are capable of doing if their income is limited.
“We will build these tiny houses very energy efficient and comfortable,” said Enlow. “We hope that we are able to get donated materials from local businesses and labor from local contractors to begin this project as soon as possible and before winter sets on. We’d like to begin with two houses and we’re looking at a start up cost of approximately $40,000 per home for everything without any donations. This is meant in no way as replacing or replicating anything Christ Hands stands for. This is to work with them and enhance them, solving the problem together.”
Pace said this is a pilot project and they are hoping the public will help with donations to get it started. Both COAP and HCCAA are 501 (c) (3) non-profit organizations and all donations are tax deducible. Anyone wishing to donate can mail their checks to COAP Inc. at P.O. Box 1617, Harlan, Kentucky 40831 or Harlan County Community Action Agency at P.O. Box 1556, Harlan, Kentucky 40831.
“We did receive a $500 donation from a former James A. Cawood High School graduate now living in North Carolina,” said Enlow. “This and other donations will make this project come to fruition. This project is going to be a community partnership with everyone working together. If someone wants to donate their time to frame one of the houses or if a church, business or individual wants to send $25 or $100 it will all be appreciated. Anything you can do to help will get this project rolling.”
Pace added in the future she would also like to see an elderly community started with these tiny homes built for them to live in.
“When people get older or lose a spouse it’s hard for them to live and maintain themselves in a larger home,” said Pace. “This project would allow them to move into a smaller space and live on a smaller income.”
In ending, both Enlow and Pace said “this project is for Harlan County.”
“I don’t think a lot of people know the problem we have with homeless people in our county,” said Enlow. “During last winter when we had two feet of snow there were 20-30 people living under a bridge in Harlan. I don’t know if Cumberland, Smith, Wallins or Evarts has any, but there probably is. There is a problem. If there is just one person homeless in this county it’s a problem. This is why we are asking for your help, this is Harlan County taking care of Harlan County. That’s what we have to do.”
For more information, you may call Pace at 606-573-5335 or Enlow at 606-573-9853.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or on Twitter @Nola_hde