DETROIT – Located on the Elmhurst exit, just off the Lodge freeway, is a community of homes, all colorful, all distinct, and all tiny. Each home is between 250 and 400 square feet, and though they may look small on the outside, they are surprisingly spacious on the inside. They have everything a home needs, a kitchen, a bathrooms, a living room and sometimes even a separate bedroom. They are all a part of a project done by Cass Community Social Services.
"We were looking for a way to help homeless people and other low income people not only attain affordable housing, but to gain an asset. And so we started looking at tiny homes as being that vehicle to help raise them out of poverty, " explains Reverend Faith Fowler, the executive director of Cass Community Social Services.
With help from other local charities, Cass Community Social Services (CCSS) built and furnished seven homes so far, with plans of building at least 19 more. They bought up 26 lots in total, all of which are adjacent to the rest of the CCSS Campus.
They charge a rent fee in the same amount per moth as the square footage of the home, so a 350 square foot house has a rent of $350 each month. The hope is that the residents will eventually own their homes and they have a program in place to get them there. If the residents pay rent consistently for 7 years, attend financial training, and volunteer 8 hours a week at CCSS they can own the home. The rent they pay every month goes towards taxes and utilities since the houses have already been paid for.
This program makes a big difference for residents like former pastor David Leenhoust. His housing was tied to his job in what is called a parsonage. When he suffered a disability and lost his job, he lost his housing as wel. He moved in with family until he was excepted into the tiny homes program.
"My brother Jim came in and walked behind me, and when he walked in he looked at the bathroom, he looked at the front room, he looked at the ceiling and he said to me 'Dave this is all you need! This is great!' and those were my thoughts too," says David Leenhoust.
David's tiny home is perfect for him and he says he could imagine living anywhere else.
These homes give residents a sense of ownership, a thing they greatly appreciate.
"My home, my porch... and the fact that they are different, and distinctive, and attractive... they are just happy," Rev. Faith Fowler says.
If you are interested in more information on this program, please visit their website here.