Real Estate Report: Plan in the works to use tiny homes to help the homeless

Tiny homes are the latest craze in real estate, offering a cheaper option for people willing to downsize. (WGME)

MIDCOAST (WGME) -- Tiny homes are the latest craze in real estate, offering a cheaper option for people willing to downsize.

In the Midcoast region they might also be used to help the homeless and provide affordable housing.

"In rural Maine, homelessness is essentially invisible," says Stephanie Primm, executive director of the Knox County Homeless Coalition and Hospitality House.

Primm says their current shelter only fits 23 people but there are many more in need.

"We have 278 people on our caseload right now and that's between homeless and people in our after-care program, which is the provision of sustained support once people are house," Primm says.

When the shelter is full, the staff can give other people blankets, food and clothing, but no bed, so they go elsewhere.

"They're camping, they're sleeping in other cars, they're sleeping in storage units," Primm says.

That's where Tia Anderson comes in. She's the executive director of Midcoast Habitat for Humanity, which builds energy and spatially-efficient homes with volunteers and discounted materials.

"The tiny homes has been a personal interest of mine and this discussion started and we looked around the country and saw great examples of how this could work," Anderson says.

The initial hope is to build up to 14 tiny homes in the back of the Rockport property with a common area, providing more shelter and a sense of community.

"I think it's amazing," says Jennifer Burns, who received help there several years ago.

"I think it would have probably made the transition a little less stressful," Burns says. "I think that will help people maybe feel a little bit more comfortable coming into the situation."

Primm says this tiny approach could solve what's become a massive challenge in the Midcoast. The project would be funded through private donations, grants and fundraisers. It needs approval from the town, but they'd like to start building some of the tiny homes by next summer.

"Our hope is not only to expand our capacity here on campus for shelter with supervision and as part of our community, but to eventually impart the tiny house concept as a solution to affordable housing in the community overall," Primm says.

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