By Jessica Carr
Grace Campus, commonly known as Tent City, provides temporary emergency shelter to the homeless in Lubbock. But recently, it was faced with a dilemma when the tents started decaying.
“The tents were deplorable and just wind-beaten with holes in them all,” Chris Moore, executive director at Grace Campus, said. “I don’t think they were meant to be up as long as they were in the West Texas dust storms and heat.”
When the directors started looking to replace the tents, they found it would cost more in the long run, so they started looking for more sustainable options.
In America, the social movement of people downsizing and moving into tiny houses gave the directors at Grace Campus a spark of inspiration.
“We started looking into the little houses that were going up across the nation,” Jerri Ann Campbell, program director at Grace Campus, said. “A lot of the things we saw were nicer and larger, so we took what we thought would work well for us.”
The idea of replacing the tents with tiny houses took off when Lowe’s Home Improvement reached out to Grace Campus and offered to build the first tiny house. Lowe’s also remolded the office and community-style bathrooms Moore said.
While the houses do not have electricity or running water, the residents do have access to bathrooms, showers and a laundry room. The tiny houses are insulated with a 12×10 floor plan, which allows enough space for two cots, and locking doors that provide a sense of security to the residents.
“You can lock a door, but you can’t lock a tent,” Moore said.
By replacing the tents with the colorful new tiny houses, the atmosphere has changed at Grace Campus.
“It’s clear that it is not a permanent residence, but it is their home while they are here,” Moore said. “It is something they can take pride in, and they are treating it as their home.”
Roy Johnson, resident at Grace Campus, said he remembers what it was like staying in the tents and is grateful for the shelter the tiny houses provide.
“I’ve heard, ‘It’s so cold,’ ‘It’s so cold,’” Johnson said. “But I’m thinking in my head, ‘It’s a roof,’ ‘It’s walls.”
Once word began to spread about the tiny house project, people began reaching out to get involved.
“There was a lot of people that did not necessarily want to come out and build, they wanted to just give the finances for it,” Campbell said. “Then we had some people that just wanted to come out and build but didn’t have the finances, so we just paired those up together—it was a God thing.”
In July, Grace Campus set a goal to have 50 tiny houses built by summer 2017, but with the help of the community that goal was met within three months. The campus currently has 98 residents, 47 tiny houses and 6 tents. The three remaining houses will be installed within a month.
“We are going to leave two [tents] up just to kind of show where we’ve been and where we are now,” Moore said.
Grace Campus is also looking into green alternatives such as solar, wind and hybrid energy to make the campus more environmentally friendly. Campbell said they have talked with experts to implement the energy alternatives, but she said it would be helpful to get ideas from Texas Tech students.
“We really need Tech kids that are creative and can look at this situation and see some potential to meet the needs of the population we serve,” Campbell said.
If students have ideas for green alternatives for Grace Campus or want to get involved, click here.