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Graves County churches building 'tiny homes' for displaced tornado survivors

Liam Niemeyer, WKMS

Graves County churches are using funding collected in the wake of December’s tornado outbreak to build temporary housing for displaced tornado survivors, hoping to have their first “tiny home” occupied by early February.

Seven Oaks Church of Christ Elder Joel Crider said 30 tiny homes – each consisting of a little 500 square feet and featuring two bedrooms, a kitchen and a corner bathroom – are being constructed from approximately $750,000 in donations collected in the wake of the natural disaster. Seven Oaks Church of Christ, Northside Church of Christ and the Bread of Life Humanitarian Effort nonprofit have been leading the effort, Crider said, though other local churches have also “been instrumental in supporting this.”

“We can give them long enough that they can get their feet under them a little bit, get the kids back in school here, get back to their jobs,” Crider said. “We're hoping that this will give some hope to some people.”

He said he imagines the temporary homes to be a multi-year project with new families and those in need cycling into the homes, and those who were previously in the housing moving out once more permanent homes are found or built. The prototype for the tiny homes was only a wooden frame and shell Friday afternoon, though Crider believes it can be fully constructed, hooked up to utilities and occupied by early February. He said the homes will be fully furnished with furniture, food and supplies and toys for children in these homes.

Liam Niemeyer/WKMS News

The outside of the prototype "tiny home."

Crider is also a board member for the Graves County-based Bread of Life Humanitarian Effort, made entirely of volunteers traveling to areas impacted by natural disasters to provide supplies, manpower and other aid. Crider said the group has traveled to Louisiana, Houston, Texas and Waverly, Tennessee, following natural disasters. Now, the nonprofit is helping its neighbors.

“You hear other people tell you how much they appreciate you coming [to disasters],” Crider said. “I guess I know now more of how other people felt when we've gone.”

Crider said the costs to those living in the tiny homes should be minimal. About 11 of the tiny homes are being placed on a private property along Lawn Drive in Mayfield, he said, where the owner of the property will charge a rent for the use of the property. Those living in the homes will also have to pay utility costs, though he said it's possible those living in the homes could have costs covered through government support or other organizations.

He said a committee consisting of local churches – including representation from Black and Latino communities through the Lee Street Church of Christ and Iglesia de Cristo – will be reviewing and interviewing applicants for the tiny homes. Crider said families with children are being prioritized for the homes, though the effort wants to make sure its reaching those “hurting the most.”

With deadlines looming for various forms of aid, and the fact many of those displaced are trying to commute from outside of the county, Crider hopes the tiny homes can be some needed stability.

“We're anxious for that first family to walk in and spend their first night here,” Crider said. “We're hoping that it works out for them. We really do.”

Crider said those interested in donating to the effort can reach out to the Bread of Life Humanitarian Effort or the churches involved. Those interested in applying to live in one of the tiny homes should reach out to the Seven Oaks Church of Christ at 270-247-5201.

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