Cindy Kelley & The Tiny House Project:
& The Tiny House Project: A Foundation for a Stable Life
Story by Katrice Williams | Photos by Tonya Perry
When traveling in the vicinity of 75 Dundee Street in Savannah, passers-by can see quite a “charming little housing community” with a look all its own. The community currently consists of a village of 23 tiny houses—homes provided for some of the most deserving of citizens—U.S. military veterans. The unique village is part of the Tiny House Project: “Georgia’s effort to reduce veteran homelessness by providing a community of permanent, affordable, tiny homes.”
Cindy Kelley, executive director of Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless (CSAH), explained, “The project provides small, affordable homes for people in desperate need of them. This is the first Tiny Homes Project approved in the state of Georgia. This particular project serves chronically homeless veterans with at least one disability.” The concept for the local project stems back to 2015.
Having a heart for service for most of her life, Cindy has served as the CSAH executive director for seven years. She could not be prouder of the project. She understands that homelessness is a terrible misfortune that has plagued a portion of the veteran community at alarming rates in this country for many years. It does not discriminate and is often not easily remedied. Cindy, though, has seen the world of good that is being done through the Tiny House Project.
Too often, a comfortable chair to relax in after an exhausting day or just the privilege of getting a good night’s sleep can be taken for granted. For these homeless veterans, a place of privacy and solace is exactly what they need. “Vets can have a place to go in and just lock the door. They value having their own place. It is essential to their quality of life,” Cindy said.
The Savannah community consists of four Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant units that are 144 sq. ft., while the remaining units are 128 sq. ft. Single residents are responsible for the low monthly rental fee of $240, which includes utilities. Couples pay $350 due to the difference in higher monthly utility usage. Even more, the community has a medical center and clubhouse, which includes washers and dryers; outdoor grills and picnic tables are also onsite. CSAH provides an array of health/wellness services and educational workshops to benefit their residents.
A Community For Veterans
Many residents also appreciate being in a community made up of fellow veterans. Whether socializing in the clubhouse while exchanging old military stories or just discovering all of the things they have in common, the village itself is a home all their own.
Cindy has even noticed that the village is now a home for a few furry friends; a few residents have welcomed in their pets—four dogs and one cat at present. Several of the veterans greatly value the extraordinary companionship that the animals provide.
“We offer a menu of optional services,” Cindy said. These include Bible studies, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, nutrition programs, and even financial management training. Also, each veteran receives the advantage of having ongoing case management services.
Marchese Construction is the building contractor for the homes. CSAH is diligently moving forward with the final phases of construction in the community, which includes 11 additional homes now and a final 12 homes being built by the early next year, though there is no exact timeline placed on the completion of the last 12 units.
“We are just moving to build the next village,” Cindy said. She is looking forward to wrapping up the project, making available even more homes to those who have gone without for so long.
Besides the construction company, a host of volunteers have helped make the Tiny House Project a success. Volunteers are especially helpful in areas like furniture and appliance collection, overall cleanup, and other small tasks. There is no task that is done that is insignificant to Cindy, and she is grateful for all that the volunteers do for the Tiny House Project.
A Community-Funded Project
The Tiny House Project receives no government funding—generous donors have contributed to making it a tremendous success.
“This is truly a community-funded project—churches, individuals, civic groups—they made this success possible. I would like to thank the donors. It would not have been possible without their gifts,” Cindy said.
Cindy also wholeheartedly appreciates the many gifts and talents exhibited by the team she has been privileged to work with. “I think our staff is really committed to serving the homeless population and cares a great deal about their work. I feel really fortunate to have led an organization over these past seven years that has such a great staff.”
CSAH is currently working with the City of Savannah regarding an abandoned home project in which abandoned homes may be purchased and renovated to provide yet another form of housing for homeless residents who will be able to rent them. The first home of the project—a two-story house that needs significant work—is near the Tiny House community.
“I’m really excited about the project,” Cindy said, as she and her team welcome the challenge and are looking forward to the results.
While the Tiny House Project is dear to Cindy, she plans to retire in December. However, she knows the organization will be left in good hands. She will continue to assist with the housing arena for a while to help make the transition as smooth as possible for all involved.
Cindy plans to do nonprofit consulting, an area she has over 20 years of experience in. “I really care about the nonprofit community. A high-functioning nonprofit community—organizations that are strong and nimble with the ability to adjust to changing times—benefits those who they serve so much,” she said.
Tiny House Project