By Bob Smietana
Like many rural communities, McCreary County, Kentucky, has a big problem with opioids.
Grant Hasty hopes to help solve that problem by starting small.
Hasty, pastor of Crossroads Community Baptist Church in Stearns, Kentucky, is one of the organizers of the Light Community, a neighborhood of tiny homes being built on the outskirts of a small Appalachian town.
Volunteers began framing the first of 20 planned tiny homes this week. Each of the houses—which range from 300 to 540 square feet—is being built from a set of basic designs.
But they’ll all have small touches that make them unique.
“We’re trying to personalize them,” says Hasty.
Hasty first came up with the idea of the Light Community about two years ago. Located in one of the poorest communities in the U.S., Crossroads often ministers to people who have a housing crisis. Some are coming out of rehabilitation. Others have lost their jobs. Some have had house fires and are in danger of becoming homeless.
Tiny homes, thought Hasty, could provide a solution for people who need a place to stay while they put their lives back together. Building a neighborhood of tiny homes would give people a sense of community, which would help them as they recover.
“When someone comes out of rehab, they need a place to go,” says Hasty. “However, they also need things to occupy their mind and spirit to help them stay on the right path. The Light Community will provide this for them.”
At first, the church looked at buying a local trailer park and replacing the run-down mobile homes with tiny homes. The idea had merit—the park already had infrastructure like electricity and water service.
But the price was too high. And the trailer park had environmental concerns. So Hasty and other church members began looking for another option.
The church eventually bought 13 acres of land about a half hour’s drive away and began developing the project.
Several churches, including Curtis Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia, and Crosspointe Baptist Church in Owensboro, Kentucky, have signed up to help.
All the tiny houses will be built by volunteers.
The first two are going up this week. Volunteers from Georgia actually framed the walls of one tiny house at their church and then transported them to Kentucky.
Hasty says churches have already signed up to build four houses, which he hopes will be ready for occupants by the spring. He’s hoping to recruit churches to build a fifth house this year to complete the first phase of the project.
Plans call for the Light Community to have four sections, with five houses in each. Two houses will be studios, meant for one person; two will have one bedroom, meant for a couple; and one will have two bedrooms, meant for parents who have kids.
A missionary couple will also live on the site to provide a pastoral presence and help build a sense of community.
Houses will cost between $3,000 and $7,000 to build, says Hasty.
The site already has a well and county water lines, as well as electrical power.
A big obstacle to finishing the project is installing a wastewater system for the houses. A system to serve the first five houses will cost $16,000. Hasty and church members are working on plans to raise the funds needed for that system.
For now, Hasty says he’s glad to see the project underway. On Monday, he was headed back to the site with roofing supplies when Facts & Trends caught up with him by phone.
“It’s been pretty awesome to see this go from a vision to something real,” he said. “We still have a long way to go.”
Crossroads isn’t the first Christian group to build a tiny homes community. In Austin, Texas, a ministry called Mobile Loaves and Fishes started the Community First! Village, a community of 140 tiny homes where formerly homeless folks can live.
Hasty says he hopes to see the first residents move into the Light Community in the spring. He’s working on identifying the first people who will move in. Residents will pay rent and be expected to take part in the community.
The Light Community is just one of the ministries run by Crossroads. The church also runs the Lord’s Café, a restaurant that serves hundreds of free, sit-down meals each week; repairs local homes with the help of volunteers; gives away clothes and groceries; and runs a laundry ministry.
Photos from the construction of Light Community:
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BOB SMIETANA (@BobSmietana) is senior writer at Facts & Trends.