Three years ago when Haley Stephens started feeding the homeless, he learned of alarming statistics regarding poverty rates in both Georgia and Gordon County. Soon after, he discovered affordable housing was a major contributing factor.
Surprised by the shockingly high rates of poverty, Stephens and a few friends went about researching how to make housing more affordable, reading legal documents, housing requirements and getting involved with local governments. During his research, Stephens dug up the fact that in 2002, poverty rates increased from less than 10 percent in Gordon County to up to 30 percent and that Gordon County currently ranks 93rd in the state for poverty, which he found astonishing.
The significance of 2002 was that during that year, housing regulations were changed from a minimum of 360 square feet to 800 square feet, which made housing more expensive and prevented lower-income families and individuals from building smaller homes.
Stephens, along with others, saw a major problem in this requirement, especially with regards to people who can’t afford to build their own houses, buy or even rent smaller homes.
Hence, Tiny House Hand Up Inc. was born. The nonprofit is dedicated to promote awareness for affordable housing and encourage locals to pursue cheaper housing options.
“We have a goal of raising $100,000 and building three tiny homes with that money,” Stephens said. “One will be an example for people to see what a tiny house is and the other two will be for emergency purposes.”
Stephens, who serves as the chairman for the nonprofit, said they are in the middle of construction for their first tiny house, which is estimated to cost around $20,000.
“There are a lot of misconceptions with tiny houses, especially when people see lavish, extravagant tiny homes on TV,” Stephens said “There’s some skepticism and the city and county governments had a couple of concerns, but when we started we had a petition signed by more than 500 people who were in support of us.”
And Stephens said Tiny House Hand Up Inc. is exactly what the name says, a “hand up,” not a hand out, which he said is a common issue with nonprofits these days.
The biggest thing he said that would help create affordable housing is if local governments would roll back the square footage requirement. Stephens, along with other officers of the organization, thinks that raising awareness can positively influence local officials to move in the right direction with regards to housing.
And though Tiny House has raised $46,000 of their $100,000 goal, they are still a long way off, which is why they host fundraisers to raise the full amount of necessary funds for the three homes.
Their next fundraiser, which will happen tonight, is a concert featuring a Fleetwood Mac tribute band called Rumours, which will be at the GEM Theatre at 8 p.m. Mekenzie Jackson, an Atlanta native who has the talent of impersonating Stevie Nicks’ voice, will be bringing her band to Calhoun to sponsor the organization.
Stephens and other members of the nonprofit will also be present, bringing along with them their first tiny house on a 28-foot trailer, which has yet to be officially completed. Those who attend the concert will be able to check in on construction progress, ask questions of the Tiny House Hand Up crew and enjoy the performance of Rumours.
Funds from the concert will go directly to the completion of the first tiny home. Tickets can be purchased at the GEM Theatre box office or at calhoungemtheatre.org.
For more information, call the GEM at 706-625-3132.