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Delaware activists call for tiny houses for the homeless

Dover, Del., could have its own tiny house park on church grounds, but organizers must first meet community resistance. 

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    A Tumbleweed brand Cypress 24 model Tiny House is towed down the highway near Boulder, Colo., in 2014.
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Homeless shelters around the United States may be feeling some relief, thanks to tiny houses. In the past two and a half decades, tiny house communities have become a popular way to get the homeless under a roof and back onto their feet.

Dover, Del. could soon join cities like Fresno, Calif.; Eugene, Ore.; Austin, Texas; and Seattle, Wash. with its own tiny house village. Proponents and supporters of the community, however, are facing opposition over their plan to build 15 200-square-foot houses on Victory Church property.

But advocates are persistent. “‘No’ is not an option,” Cathi Kopera, co-founder of Port Hope Delaware, which is heading the project, told Delaware State News.

Some church neighbors have objected to the plan, but Victory Church Pastor Aaron Appling and organizers are working with the county to develop “a plan forward,” he told Delaware State News, which includes zoning the grounds as a campground.

Still, Pastor Appling says this project alone won't solve the homeless problem in the city. “What we found is that most of the community is not aware of the dire homeless problem,” Appling said. “And that’s what we’re doing, raising awareness, because most people … if they knew there was a big problem, they would be doing everything they could to stop it.”

So local organizers are raising awareness via colorful canvases. They have pitched tents on the lawns of supporters, such as that of a financial planning business, in hopes of showing the inconvenience and difficulty of not having a home to return to at the end of the day.

Despite some local pushback, organizers are optimistic and determined. Supporters told Delaware State News they may hold more campouts around the city. "In the end, this is happening," Sue Harris, co-founder of Port Hope Delaware, told Delaware Online. "For the last 10 years or so, this has been a big mission of mine."

Tiny houses are usually built by volunteers, The Christian Science Monitor reports, and monthly utility costs are paid for by residents. Ms. Kopera and her husband, Harris, envision the residents of the Dover community as paying “sub-market rent, about $200 to $300 monthly,” according to Delaware Online.

Executive director of the Seattle-based Low Income Housing Institute, Sharon Lee, told KIRO 7 News, “[Tiny houses are] a very short-term crisis response to homelessness.” She said many people find jobs and permanent or transitional housing soon after they are placed in a tiny house.

J.R. Ohmer, one of 44 people who have lived at a Seattle tiny house village and bookkeeper for the village, told KIRO 7 News:  “I’ve regained some of my spirit. I’ve regained a lot of self-respect. It’s helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel."

The Dover church is building a model tiny home on a trailer in its parking lot to demonstrate their vision, according to Delaware Online.

"No one should have to sleep on a park bench," Jacob Hull, a carpenter and retired US Air Force airman who was working on the tiny home, told Delaware Online. "The world shuns people like that. Some people want to stay in that lifestyle, but some don't. I've met them."

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