A new group called HOPE Through Navigation believes “tiny houses” can have a big impact on the homeless population in Kalamazoo. The group’s founder, Gwendolyn Hooker, says she was inspired to start HOPE after seeing homeless people being denied housing because they had past criminal convictions.
Hooker says helping Kalamazoo’s homeless residents achieve self-sufficiency is a big focus of HOPE and the “tiny houses” project. Tiny houses are small and inexpensive homes that HOPE plans to rent and sell to homeless clients.
Six houses will be built, three of which will be available for long- or short-term rent. The others can be bought by former renters. Hooker says she expects to break ground for the first of the tiny houses in spring 2019.
“Our whole objective was really to figure out a way that was affordable, that was cost effective, that was an easier fix than just meeting and meeting and talking about the problem,” Hooker says.
Hooker says HOPE will start out small and hand out bus tokens, haircuts, clothes for job interviews, and air mattresses as temporary assistance. But she says HOPE hopes the tiny houses will offer a longer-term solution to homeless.
Hooker says HOPE wants to build a “life compass” for those in need – a set of goals to help someone who’s homeless become self-sufficient.
“The goal for HOPE Through Navigation- it’s an acronym for helping other people exceed and that’s exactly what the goal is. The goal is to help other people succeed to self-sufficiency.”