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  • Susan Cartmell

Tiny Homes

Detroit declared bankruptcy in 2013. The city went under financially. Though the city is on the other side of that economic downturn and things are looking up, the housing market is still full of derelict property that needs complete renovation. So the homeless population has been large and the need for new housing is enormous. 

Just four years ago, however, in 2016, a group of Christian churches in  and around the city did something remarkable. They worked together to help alleviate homelessness. They secured some empty lots and began to envision a village full of tiny houses that would be affordable to families and single men and women who were homeless. 



Tiny homes are structures less than 400-500 square feet designed like studio apartments by efficiency experts. They all include kitchens, and washer/dryers. Some have lofts for sleeping. Many include drawers tucked under built-in couches or staircases cleverly utilizing every inch. Solar panels in the village supplement the electricity, and residents buy their homes; they don’t rent them. They are charged $1 per square foot a month. At the end of seven years the property belongs to its occupant if they pay faithfully, which people have been doing.  This village in the middle of Detroit sits on land cleared for an expressway and includes over 20 homes, each with its unique architecture.  The project was built collaboratively and included lots of feedback from the clients who hoped to move in. Now new residents are proud to live here and look forward to leaving these houses to their children.

The churches that envisioned this village also raised funds and contributed sweat equity to build the tiny houses which cost less than $42,000 each and, since modular, can be constructed by a crew in several days.

This month our sermon theme is “home.” Every week we consider the potential of this time when most of us are at home. We ask what kind of home life we want and what it means to feel at home in the world. For families formerly homeless, these new spaces have been life-changing.  For the church folks who have collaborated to launch this village the rewards have been incalculable. As our Homeless Ministry Team led by Izzy Thompson will tell you, the work of helping to support people in their quest for housing is a gift that keeps on giving to the givers too.   {“Tiny Home, Big Impact”. By Celeste Kennel-Shank Christian Century - April 8, 2020}


Blessings, Rev. Susan

508-432-1668

Pilgrim Congregational Church, 533 MA-28 Harwich Port MA