KALAMAZOO, MI — The first phase of the Tiny Houses of HOPE project will break ground in Kalamazoo on Thursday, Oct. 8.
The first phase will focus on Kalamazoo’s Northside neighborhood adding six tiny homes and a center for wrap-around services for the nonprofit Helping Other People Exceed (HOPE) thru Navigation.
The $500,000 project has been years in the making as HOPE Thru Navigation founder Gwendolyn Hooker was adamant about creating an affordable housing solution for the population her nonprofit serves.
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The tiny homes will be available for those who have been incarcerated, have at least one year of sobriety under their belt and are currently employed. Hooker said she already has 200 candidates in Kalamazoo who fit this description.
Through her work at HOPE thru Navigation, Hooker said she was continually seeing clients couch surfing because they were turned away from landlords based on their substance abuse or criminal background.
Hooker zeroed in on housing for this population based on studies showing that relapse and recidivism rates drop by 70% if a person leaving treatment or prison has housing and employment in the first 45 days.
“Everybody knew that it was a need, but a lot of people were not loving the idea of the demographic,” Hooker said. “I was immovable on that. That was the main part of the project that couldn’t be changed.”
The plan eventually received financial backing from Kalamazoo Community Foundation and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Kalamazoo. Community members also came together to donate $51,000.
“Not folks that were rich or have foundations, but just folks who care about equity and housing for everybody,” Hooker said. “We started out with raising money from the community first, because we wanted to make sure that we have community