Tiny houses address homelessness

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- The tiny house movement could be making its way to the Triad.

Although it has become widely known as a way for people to downsize, it’s also being explored as an option for addressing homelessness in Guilford County.

"The problem isn't necessarily lack of space. There is plenty of space. I think the problem is an alignment between the housing options that exist and availability of funds, and the ability of people who are moving out of homelessness to actually pay rent or a mortgage,” Travis Hicks, director of the Center for Community-Engaged Design, said.

The Center for Community-Engaged Design has been studying similar projects in other cities including in Dallas, Texas. The Cottages at Hickory Crossing has provided stability for the 50 most chronic cases of homelessness in Dallas.

"It surrounds those cottages with supportive services. There is a community center for example and then this entire development sits across the street from what I would say is the equivalent of the Interactive Resource Center,” Hicks said.

Students studying interior architecture at the University of North Carolina Greensboro have been conducting research and meeting with the Interactive Resource Center to outline ways to bring a similar vision to Guilford County.

“They can have a shelter. Something that is comfortable for them to live in, but is sustainable,” Natalie Johnson, an interior architecture student, said.

“It’s minimalist, but it’s actually very functional,” interior architecture student Allie Puppo added.

Hicks says one of the biggest challenges will be amending zoning regulations to make sure tiny houses are in compliance with the law.

For this academic year, students will work on building a tiny house prototype to present to city leaders and advocacy groups.