Development to provide housing for area families

Rendering of what a home in the proposed “Tiny Village” would look like.

As seen on television and in the media, the “tiny house” movement is well underway. While many remain sentimental to their possessions and large living areas, others are embracing the idea of being minimalists. This social development is simple: Downsize and simplify your life by ridding yourself of nearly everything, except the necessary essentials. As a result of this lighter living, money is saved, while people are believed to be more content and more focused on the important things in life.

This very idea of living relates to a special project currently underway in Hendersonville. Tabatha Stopperich, who has always had a servant’s heart, especially always felt a pull to help the homeless. Stopperich’s passion has ultimately led to “The Little Village,” which is set to be a small home community, which will provide affordable living and emergency shelters for families at risk of homelessness.

“It was a compilation of everything that inspired “The Little Village.” My heart has always been for the homeless — especially families who are homeless. We went from giving and doing our small part to wondering what we can really do to help the community. We want to help those who are struggling financially and figure out their biggest needs,” Stopperich explained.

This upcoming community will boast a lot that will contain 10-15 completely furnished 450-525 sq. ft homes with several reserved for emergency situations, with basic utilities included. What’s more? These small homes promote family closeness and a lively community experience.

“Each home will be fully equipped with a kitchen, bathroom, family room and at least one private bedroom and a pull-out couch. Their grounds will include a playground, community garden, picnic area, a small chapel community center, laundry facilities, computer stations, a communal dining area and game room,” she added.

As part of this simplified and hopefully less stressful life, residents will pay a reduced rental fee. The fee will be offset by the self-sustainable profits brought in through sales of goods and events. As a for-profit corporation they will also create southern based décor and furniture in an effort to create jobs for their residents and the local homeless community.

“We have a lot of little events in the making, and I’m so thankful for it,” she added. “We are also planning on doing some community-driven events throughout the year. I’m hoping to gather a spot to do an event where girls going to prom can get their dresses for just $5. I still need to do some more research.”

When it comes to research, Stopperich has sure done her share when it comes to the homeless community and those who are financially struggling. Though she’s in the middle of fundraising and event planning, her focus remains on the “why” behind the project.

“One thing we’ve discovered with a lot of people who are chronically homeless is that they were brought up in financially unstable homes as children. We’re thinking if we can help those who are struggling now, it may eliminate this kind of future. It also will keep their children off the streets and hopefully in a home when they’re older. We’re trying to teach not only the parents, but also the kids who are going through this as well,” she explained.

While families will have the opportunity to positively interact in a cozy environment, the sense of community is aimed to be good for the soul as well.

“We’re seeing this as not just a home — but also as a village. The saying, ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ is so true. They’re going to have the community center and free Wi-Fi access, along with everyone in the community. There will also be the furniture and the laundry facilities, that community dining area and hopefully youth groups and different organizations they can be part of. We’re even hoping to have Dave Ramsey classes in the future,” said Stopperich. “My 7-year-old even came up with an idea to start a kid’s business program in which they’ll think of an idea and see it through,”

In addition to all of the above, a community garden will also be an added benefit. Tabatha also explained their independence from government reliance and how they want to be independently sustainable. From selling the southern inspired décor to other community projects, they are hopeful they will stay on a stable financial track.

“We will be a for-profit benefit corporation, so we will receive pretty much no government funding. This is based completely off investors and the community for any profits we make off our events or products,” she explained.

As the vision of “The Little Village” continues to unfold, Stopperich is encouraged by all the support they have received along the way.

“I’m really excited — a lot of the community has showed up and showed a lot of interest. Most of the families I’ve talked to want to volunteer. Most days I have at least 20-50 e-mails I’m responding to. For Sumner County, that seems like an astronomical number to me,” she said emphatically.

While gathering volunteers, she is of course hearing from potential people who fit the criteria of those who they are looking to assist. The stories Stopperich hears further affirms the purpose and the need for “The Little Village.”

“We’ve heard from families living in sheds in Portland and cars in Gallatin. There’s definitely a need there,” she revealed.

“Statistically, 47 percent of Americans are only $400 from a financial disaster. Homelessness can really affect any of us, and if we don’t do something to help ourselves now, we’re just going to get in a deeper rut in the future,” she added.

Stopperich isn’t just talking though — her and the trusty little village team is taking action and planning it all out along the way.

“Our goal is to have our land purchased with zoning complete by the end of summer. We are wanting to break ground by the end of 2016 to early 2017. Obviously if we make a lot more money and an amazing donor comes in, it could be even sooner,” she shared.

The building is being broken down into phases. In phase 1, they want to get the community center and at least five of the homes complete.

Stopperich emphasizes that “The Little Village” is for families, which is a fairly rare reduced housing opportunity in the Nashville area.

“A lot of Nashville and the surrounding centers that help with homelessness divide men or the boys away from their moms. Families are getting separated. There are only three shelters which allow them to remain intact. I could not imagine going through chaos and then having my son displaced – it would be even more traumatic,” she said.

“We are going to have bi-laws that they must follow. We are going to be a village of families with minor children who fall at 30 percent below the median income level. We are taking a waiting list right now.

This unique little village continues to make progress, because there is a village helping out. Tabatha is grateful for her volunteers and the organized teams they have in place.

“We have six different teams of volunteers – the event planning committee, homeless outreach and family assistance, building and permit team, social media ambassadors, the teaching team and donation centers,” she explained.

Whether people want to give monetary contributions or their time, “The Little Village” staff appreciates every effort.

In the midst of the booming tiny house market, “The Little Village” is developing right along with it. However, though “The Little Village” will contain small houses, which boast a similar concept to the tiny houses we’re seeing on HGTV, they are not one in the same.

“We aren’t technically a tiny house — we are a small house, but it’s all about consolidating and living a simplified life in a meaningful way like the tiny homes you see out there,” said Stopperich.

With the idea of “less stuff, more love” in mind, both “The Little Village” and the tiny homes movement becomes thought provoking.

“The tiny house community has certainly blown up. They have tiny homes, micro homes and cottage style ones. Some are on wheels. Tiny homes go to 375 square feet, and we decided not to go with that because of zoning. We’re still going to have to go through zoning and permits, but these tiny homes are like a closet. They’re so creative,” Stopperich said.

The draw to tiny homes comes at a time in which countless people are struggling across the nation. While people join the movement for different reasons, most come down to environmental concerns, finances and the desire for more time and freedom. With most Americans automatically having to forfeit 1/3 to ½ of their income to housing, the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle is sadly a common one.

Studies show that a home purchased at $290,000 can turn into a cost of $1,073,000 over a course of 30 years due to interest, taxes and insurance, maintenance and major repairs and improvements. Statistics also show that 68 percent of tiny house people have no mortgage compared to 29.3 percent of all U.S. homeowners. Going in line with these mind-boggling facts is that 78 percent of tiny house people own their home, compared to 65 percent of homeowners with traditional houses.

While the efficiency and financial aspect of it all has many suddenly questioning their large living spaces, everything has its pros and cons. Government HUD rules often get in the way of tiny house enthusiasts’ chances to make their tiny homes their primary residences. Those on wheels can’t just park anywhere and building codes are never going to go away.

With all of that said, “The Little Village” will enjoy the simplicity and the bond of their little community in a bit more space than the tiny houses in the news. Still, the idea of smaller living spaces is especially intriguing in our countries’ current state.

Aside from the tiny houses movement, Tabatha found her utmost inspiration in heart of hearts.

“Since I was looking at helping the chronically homeless — that’s where the original thought had been. It then grew to, “where else can we help?” The tiny house community has been amazing and they’re the most helpful people I’ve ever spoken with. Their hearts are completely in it for the right reasons. With us though, once I thought about the logistics and families of four, a small house is what really made the most sense,” she said.

“They’re going to have bigger opportunities in a smaller setting.”

A public meeting will be held at Freedom Church in Gallatin at 8:30 p.m. on March 14. It will be a question and answers session and an opportunity to gather more information. They will also be opening up a chance to purchase stock. For those interested in investing in a building, there are going to be different systems in place to name houses after families or corporations.

To learn more about “The Little Village” join the “The Nashville Little Village” page on Facebook or visit their website at www.thelittlevillagebenefit.com. Their e-mail address is thelittlevillage@yahoo.com where they can be reached for volunteering and donations.

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