LITTLE ROCK, Ark (KTHV) - Across central Arkansas, homelessness is a growing problem. In Conway, two organizations have recently tried to open shelter facilities to address the problem and both times, the projects ended up not working out.
That's why City of Hope in Conway is working on a new, unique idea to help people find a place to call their own.
Wayne Cox has been a volunteer with City of Hope for around 4 years. He said he got involved after a chance encounter with the organization’s director at a coffee shop across the street from his work.
“It was one of those things that just hit me,” said Cox. “It would be a blessing for so many people if we could build a tiny home village,” he said. “It just struck me that this is going to make a lot of sense.”
His conversation that day led to envisioning a dream for the Conway community.
The idea started years ago in the mind of Phillip Fletcher, Executive Director of City of Hope after his friend died because of unsuitable housing conditions.
“I had a friend named Gary Harrison who lived in the Oakwood Trailer Park and last year he and his roommate died in a fire while they were asleep in their trailer last January,” said Fletcher. “They had heaters to try to keep warm and, through a series of events, they died in the fire.”
Fletcher said the devastating event led him to think of solutions for homelessness and unsuitable living conditions in the city. His solution was to try and create a community of 10 tiny, affordable homes for people to live in. It would be a community called Hope Village.
Homeless people would be able to stay in the homes while working to get stable for 30-45 days. During that time, City of Hope volunteers would provide services to help them find employment. Then, they and low-income individuals would be eligible to live in the homes with rent that is income based.
“It wouldn’t be something just given to them,” said Fletcher. “It's a shared partnership.”
The City of Hope has had UCA students and other companies working to create unique designs for the homes. Designs are for 480 square foot homes and 640 square foot homes. Fletcher says he has already begun working to raise the money to purchase a lot located next door to City of Hope. He is also working to raise money for construction costs.
Bret Franks construction is interested in being part of the construction process. They have previous experience building tiny homes.
“We are really interested in being able to help,” said Bret Franks. “It’s an organization that's taking it upon themselves to get the money, funding and grants for people a lot less fortunate than the rest of us.”
Franks said that while he's excited about the possibility of helping out, building affordable housing is still going to be a challenge.
“I’m having to work really hard on getting the numbers down on something like this,” he said.
Although challenges are inevitable for a project as big as this, Fletcher is confident that no matter the cost, the Conway community can come together to make the dream a reality.
“The homeless and those who are low income are part of the city as well, and it takes all of us to accomplish something for other people,” he said. “We have to come up with solutions that we are going to act on and we have to have the courage and humility to do something about this.”
Fletcher says he is working to have individuals and businesses sponsor the cost of each house to help fund the project. He is also working to bring more awareness about the idea in the community.
For more information on City of Hope, visit there website.