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Tiny-home village for the homeless about to get a boost

A Wichita group is hoping to model a tiny-home village after Mobile Loaves and Fishes’ Austin-based Community First! Village.
A Wichita group is hoping to model a tiny-home village after Mobile Loaves and Fishes’ Austin-based Community First! Village. Courtesy photo

A Wichita group’s dream to build a tiny-home village for the homeless is about to get a boost from the University of Kansas.

The KU School of Architecture, Design and Planning has entered into an agreement with Let’s Rock and Roll and Change the World to design and build one tiny home by May for the proposed village.

Though the university’s architecture students have agreed to design and build a tiny home, there are still ample challenges for the Wichita group to overcome, perhaps the biggest being providing funding for the project.

According to a memorandum of understanding, KU estimates a project budget of at least $30,000, to be provided by Let’s Rock and Roll and Change the World.

Finding the funding for the project will be a significant challenge, according to leaders at Let’s Rock and Roll and Change the World, but they remain optimistic.

“We have an awesome God,” said Kimberly Sims, one of the founders of the group. “He opened this door, and we know that he will open further.”

The agreement

When KU architecture professor Chad Kraus first heard of the Wichita group’s project, he said he became “very interested” in it.

Kraus teaches a design/build studio for KU architecture students every spring semester, and after about a month of talks with the Wichita group this spring, he decided to make the tiny home his spring 2017 studio project.

The project includes a few stipulations.

▪ KU will design and build the home, approximately 8.5 by 20 feet, on the university campus in Lawrence. Let’s Rock and Roll and Change the World must transport it to Wichita.

▪ The funding for the project will come from Let’s Rock and Roll and Change the World. It is still “too early to determine costs,” according to the memorandum, which states comparable tiny homes can be purchased for around $60,000.

▪ Students are required to maintain health insurance policies that protect them in case of personal injury while working on the project. Let’s Rock and Roll and Change the World assumes all other liabilities from the project.

In the fall, Kraus will teach a course exploring topics such as community, home places, homelessness and tiny homes, he said.

He hopes the experience will be a valuable one for his students.

Future roadblocks

Let’s Rock and Roll and Change the World is planning various fundraising events, Sims said, including a “living art” display on July 29 at New Covenant United Methodist Church, 1710 W. Douglas.

At the Final Friday event, current or formerly homeless people will share their stories, she said.

Since mid-April, the group has received $1,400 in donations for the tiny-home village, she said.

She hopes the partnership with KU will spur more donations to the group, which also plans to do online crowdfunding.

“We have a ton of things planned – we just haven’t unveiled them yet,” she said.

The group has received mostly positive feedback on their plans for the R&R Tiny Home Village, Sims said, though questions still remain as to whether the city would allow such a development.

Sims said the group is still interested in talking with Margaret Nelson Spear, owner of the former Joyland Amusement Park property in south Wichita, about putting the tiny-home village in that area.

“It depends on what the city allows us to do,” Sims said. “We’re flexible.

“We know that God has a plan, and we don’t know exactly what that plan is, but we’re willing to walk that plan with God.”

The group’s plans for the R&R Tiny Home Village include purchasing land for 36 tiny homes, which would be built and maintained with the “sweat equity” of its prospective residents.

The village would include on-site medical, dental and mental health care services, Sims said.

“You can’t stop homelessness by putting somebody in a house,” she said. “You have to wrap support around them.”

Once the KU partnership has come to fruition, the Wichita group would have access to all of its blueprints, materials list and related items, Sims said.

It would be up to Let’s Rock and Roll and Change the World to construct the rest of the homes in its future village.

“If (God) didn’t want this to happen, I couldn’t see him opening the door with KU,” Sims said. “God can open a door we don’t even know that’s getting ready to open.”

Matt Riedl: 316-268-6660, @RiedlMatt

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