Substandard housing to tiny homes

Park County has long been concerned with residents who buy or lease land and then live in campers, tents, or sometimes a compilation of items such as this shipping container. Homes for the Heart is a charitable organization that will host a fundraiser and awareness event in Fairplay, the evening of Oct. 26. This program aims at helping people obtain a safe, secure tiny home (often 250 square feet to 600 square feet) that is code-compliant and then coordinates to help them with other life skills, such as healthy cooking. (Photo by Lori Bennett/The Flume)

It’s no secret that Park County has numerous types of housing shelters that range from beautiful mountain cabins and urban townhomes to people living in tiny homes, railroad containers, campers, tents, and even in holes in the ground.

Ray Lyons, founder of the Homes from the Heart program, sees this housing assistance program as one piece to fulfill the need for affordable housing in Park County.

Lyons is helping sponsor a fundraiser and awareness event for the HFTH program that is having its First Harvest Dinner in Fairplay, Oct. 26, from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at the Fairplay Community Center, 880 Bogue St. in Fairplay.

The dinner is a fundraiser, and though the organization has been in the formation and baby-step development stages for the past four to five years, per Lyons, this is also the HFTH’s coming out party.

The dinner will be a multi-course, sit-down meal featuring local farm fare prepared by a chef. There will be a silent auction, live music and a live painting by a mural artist.

Tickets are a $55 donation per person and $300 per table of six.

To purchase tickets, go to the www.eventbrite.com website and search “Homes From the Heart.”

About HFTH

HFTH has incorporated as a 501(c)(3) and has a board of directors and an official website that is expected to go live later this week.

The program aims to provide safe, secure, sanitary and code-compliant housing for those in need.

“Once housing is in place, then other programs, such as food stamps and healthy lifestyle choices and other governmental programs can be more effective,” Lyons said.

Lyons envisions HFTH as a “holistic program that helps people with healthy lifestyle choices, teaches them skills such as learning how to cook stew, and other life skills. And, providing safe, secure housing is a necessary first step in order to help the elderly, veterans, single parents and families with other skills that can then be added.”

Lyons has funded 90 percent of the program to date, by providing building supplies and providing the sweat equity, including but not limited to: serving as chief volunteer, employee, septic-installer, county liaison, enrollment coordinator and community relations contact for the program for the past years.

He is happy to have five board members who will take over the chief operations of the organization.

How does it work and how many tiny homes have been completed?

The homes are often referred to as “tiny or small homes,” and that is because they are 250 square feet to approximately 600 square feet in size.

A completed home has a code-compliant, sanitary septic system, electricity, insulation and after inspection by the county, receives a full Certificate of Occupancy.

HFTH has had lots of cooperation with the county government and support from the county commissioners.

Lyons said, “The county officials are the heroes, due to their assistance and collaboration with the HFTH projects.”

Currently there are three completed tiny homes. “Brother Ray” from Hartsel used to live underground. With the completion of his HFTH tiny home, he now lives above ground in his small home, complete with a septic system, water and refrigerator, as well as a view.

There are approximately eight homes that are in various stages of being built and there are at least nine more on the waiting list.

Lyons expects that the new board of directors will communicate qualification criteria for the program. For the past few years, one requirement has been that the applicants own their property and have a warranty deed proving that they have permission to build on the land.

How is this different from Habitat for Humanity?

Lyons explains, “The people we are serving are one step below those that are served by Habitat. For example, with Habitat, the recipients must be able to show that they have a regular income to pay off a low interest loan,” and he adds, “in our program, clients may be veterans or disabled and they may not have a regular income.”

Benefits to the community

Park County has many people living in substandard conditions, often using the “bucket septic system,” which means they may use buckets as their toilet and dump the waste onto the ground, which can then pollute the soil as well as seep into groundwater in the county.

Another hope of the HFTH program is to provide housing for future and current employees of the county.

The mission of HFTH is to provide “Hope and a home for veterans, disabled, elderly and single moms who are about to lose everything because their living conditions are unsafe and unsanitary which puts the community at risk.”

The flyer for the event also adds, “We give them hope or they go homeless. We are their last chance.”

The website address, which is expected to be online soon, is www.homesfromtheheartco.org. More information can be found about the program on this website.

Although many people know Ray Lyons in his former role as Pastor of the Country Church of Hartsel, the HFTH program does not have a particular religious designation or connection with any church.

In addition to funding that will go directly for purchase of building supplies, Lyons emphasizes that “We also need volunteer plumbers, framers, electricians, roofers and general laborers.”

It is possible that in the future, HFTH will be able to qualify and apply for governmental and other kinds of grants.

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