Nashville, Tennessee–For more than two weeks now, the Rev. Jeff Obafemi Carr has been living in a 60 square foot micro-home in an innovative effort to raise $50,000 dollars to build an entire village of them for homeless citizens seeking affordable housing. Modeled after the popular units seen on travel/lifestyle shows like Tiny House Nation and Tiny House Builders, the entire home is built on a 6×10 trailer. The micro-homes will be donated free of charge to those who need reliable shelter.
“I wanted to build an actual home for people that could preserve their sense of dignity. I don’t want to build something that I wouldn’t live in myself, so I’ll be doing just that,” said Carr, the Founding Minister of Infinity Fellowship, in a press release. “I looked at the concept with a friend of mine, Dwayne Jones, and said, ‘why can’t we build these units for people who are currently sleeping on the ground?’ After that, the idea just caught fire. My congregation got with it instantly and we were off to the races.”
Infinity Fellowship is an interfaith congregation committed to social action and justice. The group envisions an entire village of tiny homes (6-8 units) that will be that will be built on repurposed auto trailers and distributed to landowners who are willing to provide shelter for homeless citizens in transition. Similar homes have been built across the country in cities like Madison, WI, Seattle, WA, and even Los Angeles in an effort to combat homelessness.
On any given night in Nashville, it is estimated that there are as many as 2,000 – 4,000 homeless individuals–people without a permanent residence living in shelters, streets, hotels, cars, with friends, and family members.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, In January 2014, there were 578,424 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States. Of that number, 216,197 are people in families, and 362,163 are individuals. About 15 percent of the homeless population – 84,291—are considered chronically homeless individuals, and about 9 percent of homeless people—49,933—are veterans.
In an effort to raise awareness and funds, Carr set up a GoFundMe page and then moved into the model micro-home, which is parked in the middle of Inner-City Nashville. The home was built by his college buddy, engineer and construction company owner Dwayne A. Jones of Memphis, TN. Infinity members drop off food and water, and he showers at a nearby gym when the baby-wipe baths don’t suffice.
Although the unit is small, it is comfortable, with insulated drywall, a standard sized doorway, a shuttered window, vaulted ceiling and even an air conditioning unit. The unit is wired for electricity and is sturdy enough to withstand volatile weather and even survived what may actually be the first ever micro-home invasion attempt, which occurred the first week Carr took up residence in the micro-home.
“I have no shame in saying I’ve been there,” says Carr, an award-winning filmmaker, writer, and unconventional spiritual leader, who founded Infinity Fellowship last October. “Right after my wife and I got married, the economy tanked, and artists are the first to suffer when that happens. My house went into foreclosure and I ended up staying in my mother-in-law’s attic until I could get back on my feet. People see homelessness as a disease, as if it couldn’t happen to them. I know, personally, that it can, and that’s why we’re going to do our part to chip away at it, one micro-home at a time.”
Rev. Carr plans to dwell in the micro-home until the fundraising goal is reached. So far, more than $17,000 has been raised by more than 200 donors from around the country. The husband and father of five children not only sleeps in the micro-home, he holds his meetings there, and spends much of the day offering tours, fielding the interest of potential residents and donors and providing counseling and guidance to those who come to visit. Many are shocked that he is African-American.
“’Black folks build these?’ is the most repeated question I’ve heard over the last 16 days,” says Carr. “I just say, ‘Well, they do now.’”