A local activist group will hold a public forum on the topic of building tiny houses for the homeless Oct. 4 at 10 a.m. in Gage Hall at the Unitarian Church in Charleston (4 Archdale St.).

The group, Tiny House Project Charleston, draws its inspiration from the Dignity Village of Portland, Ore., a squatters’ encampment near Portland International Airport consisting of numerous small, semi-permanent dwellings. Moses Brunson, a spokesman for the Charleston group, says he will present the organization’s goals and seek input and support for the project.

“Our goal and our mission is just to get the homeless people off the streets, give them an address, start a rebuilding process, and the end of that is that those that want it will be eligible to get a tiny house,” Brunson says.

Brunson, who is formerly homeless, says he got involved with the Tiny House Project after meeting some former Occupy Charleston members who held a free pot luck dinner in Mall Park. He says the group is still trying to locate land that could be used to construct the tiny houses, which would be built on trailers ranging in size from 8 x 12 feet to 10 x 15 feet. He says the project has gained some urgency as officials have begun clearing out homeless encampments in recent months.

“The numbers are going up so fast now that the city is going through and DOT is going through cleaning out from under the bridges and cleaning up a lot of the wooded areas where people had tents and so forth … The numbers are rising daily,” Brunson says.

Brunson has approached City Councilman Robert Mitchell, who represents much of the Eastside and the Neck, about getting permission from the city to build a tiny house village. Mitchell says one of his first concerns was about how and where the group would find property to use.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen on the peninsula, so if it happens, it might have to be on the outskirts,” Mitchell says. “If there is property, it might be a county issue, too.”

Mitchell says the group will also have to consider what rules it will put in place to govern the residents of the tiny houses when they are completed.

“I think it might be helpful as long as someone is going to be there to oversee it,” Mitchell says. “Everybody might want to congregate in that area and say, ‘OK, I’m going to stay here too because this is for the homeless.’ You’ve got to look at it very seriously how you’re going to do it. You have to come up with some plans and come up with some stipulations of how it’s going to be done, who’s going to be there, who’s going to operate it. All of these things have to be in place.”

Meanwhile, one candidate for mayor of Charleston, Paul Tinkler, has been advocating another kind of small-scale residential construction known as micro-housing, which has been promoted as a sustainable housing choice for the general population in cities including Seattle, Wash. A Tinkler campaign spokesman says the city could encourage micro-housing construction in Charleston through zoning changes.

“Land is scarce, so it would be a more efficient way to provide housing,” the spokesman says. “It’s all about efficiency and affordability.”

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