A parking lot in Madison will soon be transformed into a new tiny home village created by Open Table Nashville (OTN), a local advocacy group that works to fight homelessness.
The homes will serve as “bridge housing” for the city’s most vulnerable homeless people while outreach workers help them find permanent housing. OTN Executive Director Ingrid McIntyre said the homes will be reserved for adults who are at the highest risk of dying on the streets.
“When you see some of the things that people go through, especially when people are physically or mentally sick, or older, or have just been on the street for a long time or have experienced something particularly traumatic, for them to be on the street is really deadly,” McIntyre said. “... We have a lot of people who are receiving hospice care under bridges, or people who’ve just been released or discharged from the hospital who still really need some pretty intense care.”
McIntyre said there’s no timeline for the opening of the homes quite yet, but that the 15-18 houses are definitely happening.
Tiny home communities have sprung up throughout the country to help combat homelessness. This won’t be Nashville’s first tiny home village — last year, Green Street Church of Christ opened six micro-homes on its property. However, the tiny home initiative represents an exciting new step for OTN, which hasn’t developed housing units before. The group — launched in 2010 after a group of activists helped the inhabitants of the flooded homeless encampment called “Tent City” — usually focuses on advocating for social justice and developing relationships with people on the streets to help them find housing.
“We’re tired of having to wait for people to be able to get in housing as we watch them actively die because they’re every day out in the elements,” McIntyre said. “... This is something we can do, so we’re gonna do it while we wait for justice in the rest of the town, where we lack 40,000 units of housing.”
The tiny homes will be on foundations, rather than on wheels. “They have a kitchen and a bathroom and a bedroom and a small sitting space, and a loft. They’re really cute,” McIntyre said. The site plans also depict the houses arranged around central, grassy courtyards.
An outreach worker will be designated to work specifically with village residents to find permanent housing, and a nurse will regularly visit to assist with people’s medical issues.
The tiny homes will also serve to help residents make the transition from living on the streets to permanent housing.
“It’s a pretty traumatic situation to move from constantly living outside to moving indoors, and so hopefully this will provide that supportive community so people can work through that and become acclimated to living inside, so then when they do get into permanent housing it’s not this huge shock,” McIntyre said.
McIntyre said the tiny homes have been a goal for OTN from the start, and that the right moment and resources just finally arrived.
As for the architecture and design, the firms are working on the project pro bono. A recent grant from the Cal Turner Family Foundation will cover the site prep and the hiring of a project manager, and each tiny home will be sponsored by an individual or group donor, like local churches. Mary Wester’s foundation in her name is sponsoring a tiny home. She’s also the past president of the Real Estate Investors of Nashville, and wants to bring the group on board to help with building.
“I would like to see our group involved in a build to help them. Once they bring the shell in, they’re going to need some people to come in and help finish it,” Wester said.
According to McIntyre, this new project has allowed OTN to expand its community partnerships to donors who are more willing to contribute to “brick and mortar” projects rather than only outreach and social justice work.
For McIntyre, one of the most important aspects is that the tiny homes will connect residents to other people who are going through the same experiences.
“We’re hoping that this will help provide community for people who are in really high risk situations,” she said. “Always knowing that there are people around to be able to help, and just being able to be in a stable environment so hopefully they can actually make it to permanent housing.”
OTN is meeting with the Metro Planning Commission on Tuesday, July 12, to talk through codes and zoning details and establish exactly how many tiny homes can be built on the lot.