The house is tiny, just 350 square feet, but to Gladys Ferguson, it feels much bigger. The widowed 64-year-old loves her yellow miniature Colonial, with its new appliances, air-conditioning, and its own little garden. And if she continues to pay $350 a month for seven years, she will own it.
“It’s my own teeny-weeny mansion,” Ferguson says. “It’s a tremendous blessing.”
Ferguson’s house, in a blighted corner of northwest Detroit, is one of two dozen such homes under construction by Cass Community Social Services, a Detroit nonprofit led by 58-year-old Methodist minister Rev. Faith Fowler (STH’76). While the little homes look like those tony miniatures featured on cable TV—one is a shrunken Tudor, another a scaled-down Victorian—these weren’t built for baby boomers looking to downsize or young couples on a budget. The occupants are the Motor City’s poorest residents, formerly homeless people, and others living in poverty.
Rev. Faith Fowler (STH’86) believes tiny homes are a way to help homeless and economically disadvantaged people gain assets that will help them through financial ups and downs.
“Our goal is to target folks who are ready to move out of the shelters or bad rental situations,” says Fowler. “We were, probably still are, the only agency to provide ownership opportunities for people making as little as $8,000 a year.”
That’s less than what’s required for a home through Habitat for Humanity, the well-known nonprofit promoted by former president Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn. It’s also an idea that has put Fowler in the national spotlight. Stories about the project on PBS, CNN, and other outlets have drawn busloads of tourists. A Facebook video about the project posted after construction of the first house in 2016 has been viewed more than 42 million times.
Fowler says it’s been a wild ride. She recently self-published Tiny Homes …