Mission Waco unveils first tiny home for homeless

Politics


Mission Waco this week unveiled its first tiny home for an affordable housing village for local homeless people, going public with a multimillion-dollar fundraising campaign for the project.

The 200-square foot home on display at the charity’s annual fundraiser banquet is a “microhome,” the smallest of four home designs to be used at Creekside Community Village at 3810 S. University Parks Drive. Larger homes will feature more amenities and will offer up to 400 square feet.







The interior of the microhome includes a bed, closet, minifridge and coffee maker as well as other living amenities. 




Mission Waco is aiming to start this summer on the first of more than 300 homes planned over the next five years on the 67-acre property just outside the city limits.

Mission Waco has already bought the property with a $1 million contribution from the city of Waco, and it has an additional $5 million in pledges toward the $12 million first phase.

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But much of that pledged amount is not immediately available, and Mission Waco officials are looking to raise an additional $1.2 million in the short term to build infrastructure at the site.

Mission Waco has looked to Austin’s Community First Village as a design model for creating a tiny home village for the homeless, and is even using the same architecture firm, L.M. Holder III.

Community First, located in a remote part of Travis County outside of Austin city limits, first welcomed residents in 2015. A January article in the New York Times placed the number of residents at around 400. 







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Mission Waco Executive Director John Calaway speaks at Mission Waco’s annual fundraiser banquet at the BASE Event Center Thursday.




Mission Waco Executive Director John Calaway said the community’s small home designs are meant to encourage community engagement with residents, which he said is often lacking among people experiencing homelessness. Creekside Village’s 346 planned units will be built close together around communal spaces such as kitchens and bathrooms.







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Banquet attendees check out the model microhome at Mission Waco’s annual fundraiser banquet. The 200-square-foot home is the smallest of four designs for tiny homes planned at Creekside Village.




While larger units will have in-unit showers and bathrooms, smaller units such as the microhome will not. Chief village officer Dusty Kirk said that will encourage residents to leave their homes more often and engage with other residents.

“We want people to come out into community,” Kirk said. “What we’ve experienced before is when people don’t have to come out, when they stay inside, their addiction, their mental, physical health, all that deteriorates. We’ve been to Austin several times, and just see (engagement) is critical to just bringing people out of homelessness and back into a normal life.”

Altogether, the development will have 168 microhomes, six family bungalow-style homes, 122 homes with partial plumbing and 50 park home models. Rent at the development will be determined closer to the actual opening of the community, but Calaway said it will be affordable, with units only being a few hundred dollars per month.

In addition to the homes, Creekside will also feature abundant community spaces. In addition to the community kitchens and bathrooms, Calaway said the back half of the property will feature community gardens, parks and even animal pens. Calaway said residents can also accept jobs to take care of the community spaces as a dependable source of income.

“Now these community accommodations are unique, but they prevent isolation, which is common for individuals that are new to housing, and it enhances living in community which helps with mental health and substance abuse disorders,” Calaway said. “It also provides provide income for those that will need income and who we would like to pay to take care of these facilities.”

Calaway said Creekside has been in the works since around April 2021, around the time the single-room occupancy Oak Lodge in downtown was demolished to make way for a condo and retail development. At the time, many housing advocates said the motel was one of the cheapest places in town to stay, and its demolition left many of its long-term residents with nowhere else to go. 

Calaway said Mission Waco has estimated the first phase of the project to cost a total of $12 million. The $6 million raised so far includes the city’s $1 million for land purchase and will also fund property and professional service costs such as planning and design.

Calaway said Mission Waco plans to hit the fundraising campaign hard once it is time to build the tiny homes, encouraging churches or businesses to fund the homes one at a time instead of all at once.

During the banquet, Calaway thanked the late Don Behringer, who provided the lead gift for the project, as well as the city of Waco.

Kirk said Mission Waco hopes to begin moving residents into the village once homes are built, meaning residents could move into Creekside as soon as the first phase of homes are completed. Kirk said home construction is expected to begin later this year. To qualify to live at Creekside, an individual must have been homeless within the last year or has been staying at a low-income motel.

About 20% of the community will also be “missional” residents who are not formerly homeless, but choose to stay in the community. Calaway said this “mixed-income” approach will create a more sustainable neighborhood, as the missionals will also provide residential care.

A point-in-time count done last year placed the number of homeless in Waco at 242, meaning when completed, Creekside should offer plenty of space for Waco’s homeless population.

WATCH NOW: At its June 6, 2023 meeting, the Waco City Council made a $1 million agreement with Mission Waco for its Creekside Community Village, a development to offer low-cost housing for homeless people in McLennan County. The project’s 67-acre tract at 3810 S. University Parks Drive will one day hold an estimated 328 units of various housing types reserved for the county’s lowest earning residents.





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