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A new kind of neighborhood is being built in Rhea County. They’re all tiny homes — just a couple hundred square feet. But these new “micro homes” are helping fight homelessness.
“This is a tiny house or micro house, they’re actually I guess the ‘new thing’,” said Laura Olmstead of We Care in Dayton.
It’s the first one of its kind in the region — a fully furnished, 200 square foot ‘micro’ home that’s equipped with power, heating and air.
Olmstead said it’s more than having running water and a safe place to sleep.
“They don’t have to worry about someone coming in their room on them, they don’t have to worry about someone stealing their items. They don’t have to worry about the safety of their children, and it just gives them time to psychologically and emotionally rebuild,” she said.
There’s a misconception that homelessness doesn’t exist in Rhea County, but it’s a problem in rural areas across the country. On top of higher poverty rates, there are fewer options for the homeless in rural areas.
“Just because you don’t see it under the bridges as much, doesn’t mean it’s not there. They find a way. They sleep in cars, they go to Walmart,” said Olmstead, who was homeless as a teen and young adult.
“I loaded up what I could in the car, and we left,” said Karla Grun. She and her kids were once homeless.
A victim of domestic violence, Grun was forced to leave her home and lived in cars and on other people’s couches.
“I couldn’t protect my children anymore, so I had to go,” she said.
Grun wishes micro homes were around during her crisis, but is happy someone else can have that option.
“With this home, you don’t have to be ashamed. You can say ‘I have an address.’ You can go home after work and feel like, ‘I’m secure. I’m doing well. And I’ll be on my feet soon’,” Grun said.
“Once they get out of here, they’re gonna be OK, and then they can in turn reinvest and help the next family,” said Olmstead.
We Care is planning to build a micro home community with about 15 other houses. A family will be moving into the one that’s currently built next month.