By Jen Beardsley, THN VISTA Member
KIRBYVILLE, Texas (Jan. 28, 2019) – At the end of 2018, Roy James, founder of the South East Texas Coalition for the Homeless (SETCH) and seven other nonprofits, secured five acres of land donated by the Kirbyville Housing Authority to build a tiny home village for people experiencing homelessness. Phase I, Veterans Village, will be reserved for those who served in the military and Phase II, Home Safe, will be open to the general public. The one and two bedroom tiny homes will largely serve as transitional housing, but the elderly and those in exceptionally poor health will be considered for permanent residence. Once a road to the site is built, the homes themselves and a central office/community building will be constructed by volunteers.
SETCH will operate the site and agreed to lease the land from the Kirbyville Housing Authority for over 50 years for a total of $1. The residents will pay rent, not to exceed 30 percent of their income. Existing funds that come from a mix of donations, grants, and community resources will cover the remaining 70 percent of rental costs. Donations will also ensure that homes are completely stocked with furniture, toiletries, food, and bedding when residents move in. Residents will be able to take personal items, such as towels and bedding, when they move out from their home. A food bank and communal clothes closet will be available in the community building along with laundry facilities.
In addition to general property management, SETCH will use its Outreach Services Network to give residents access to mental health services, financial counseling, legal aid, case managers, and transportation to services. Modeled after Kansas City’s Veterans Village, residents will also be assisted with drafting a “life plan” to help them transition out of homelessness.
A 30-person steering committee planned the site and activities leading up to its creation. Multiple committee members have previous experience building tiny homes, including the owner of ALLGO Mobile Services, Alan Mays, who specializes in repairing and rebuilding RVs. Other committee members include Bryan Landers, an insurance agent helping to provide insurance for the site, and Wes Bell, Executive Director of the Kirbyville Housing Authority. The committee also includes attorneys, builders, medical professionals, and a bank manager. Architect Roy Harper designed the floor plans for the homes.
There is currently one other tiny home village being constructed for those transitioning out of homelessness in the Texas Balance of State Continuum of Care coverage area. Local homeless coalition Brown County Home Solutions began constructing Legacy Village in 2018 which is also being built by volunteers. In October, their first tenant moved in. Once the project is complete, it will have a total of 16 homes.
About South East Texas Coalition for the Homeless
SETCH was founded in 2000 and is a collaborative dedicated to ending homelessness in Jasper, Hardin, Jefferson, and Orange counties. The coalition is comprised of local, state, federal, faith-based, non-profit organizations and local businesses. For more information, call 409-594-5266.