A group of people hopes to utilize the growing popularity of “small houses” for a growing problem: shelter for homeless families. The project is called “The Little Village.”
The Little Village’s vision is to provide emergency shelters and reduced-fee living for families with minor children who have a household income falling 50% below the local median income ($53,482 is the Nashville median income) or are at risk for becoming homeless. The community will host 10-15 furnished small homes (450-500 sq. ft.) equipped with a kitchen, bathroom, and at least one private bedroom. The self-sustaining community will include laundry faculties, communal dining, computer stations for job hunting and classes, a family room, playground, and community garden. The Little Village hopes to be in place by fall of 2016.
Thinking “homeless” often conjures up a vision of the skid row bum. But approximately 50% of all homeless women and children are fleeing some form of domestic violence. About 25% of the urban homeless are children under 18. And 46% of all homeless are couples, families or children (Source).
Like many cities, Nashville, Tennessee often underserves the homeless population. 19% of Nashvillians (1/5 of households/122,527 people) live below the poverty line (Source). Local shelters cater to men, or women, or women with male children and an age limit, which means families having to separate. During a high-risk time, families need to bond together. Thus The Little Village focuses on keeping families together.
Safety is important for the residents, and there will be bylaws for families who reside in The Little Village. Once an application is submitted, the adults must pass background checks. The Little Village is a benefit corporation, not a 501(c) 3 non-profit. “A Benefit Corporation has a corporate purpose to create an impact on our local community and society … required by our corporation to look at not only the shareholders but also the workers, community, and environment,” explains The Little Village Founder Tabatha Stopperich. “We are strongly committed to doing the good that the world needs.”
But the community is not about handouts; it will focus on self-sufficiency. Residents will be responsible for paying a reduced rental fee – but they will also learn to make, sell, and host special events to sell Southern-based décor and furniture to include reclaimed wood furnishings, painting, sculptures, and artwork. Some produce from the community garden will be sold at the Farmer’s Market. A percentage of proceeds will go towards the rent.
A study conducted by Vanderbilt University on the cost of homelessness in Nashville reveals that “…housing people experiencing homelessness makes economic sense for Nashville” (p.18). “Everyone deserves an opportunity to belong to a safe, thriving community where they can live, exercise, socialize, and develop skills that will be useful throughout their lives” Stopperich says.
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