Fort Worth

Fort Worth church wants to build tiny homes to help this homeless population

The Inspiring Temple of Praise Church wants to develop a tiny home project for veterans on this vacant lot off Cooks Lane in east Fort Worth. The church bought the land hoping to build a new sanctuary.
The Inspiring Temple of Praise Church wants to develop a tiny home project for veterans on this vacant lot off Cooks Lane in east Fort Worth. The church bought the land hoping to build a new sanctuary. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

With dreams to build a large sanctuary dashed, the Inspiring Temple of Praise Church on Lancaster Avenue in Fort Worth has instead turned its attention to tiny homes.

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Since buying 9.4 acres at the southwest corner of John T. White Boulevard and Cooks Lane in east Fort Worth for a new campus eight years ago, the church hasn't been able to get the project financed.

Wanting to put the land to use, the church last year formed the non-profit, Integrity Community Development Corp, focused on helping homeless veterans regain their independence, said Pastor Reginald Jordan.

In place of the new church, they’re now planning a community of about 150, 400-square-foot homes veterans would rent. The homes would have a bedroom, kitchenette and bathroom. The community center would have a cafe, recreation options, theater room and offices for veteran and health services.

Located on Lancaster Avenue near Riverside Drive for 20 years, near the city’s homeless shelters, Jordan said they see how serious the housing need is. The tiny homes will provide affordable housing for single veterans in transition. Monthly rents could run $600 to $700, he said.

“There are veterans in this area we know are homeless,” Jordan said. “This project is so much bigger than building a sanctuary. There is no way a veteran should be without a job or a home.”

The tiny home project is a $7 million dream that the church has raised $250,000 toward, Jordan said. A grant writing team is looking for funding. Jordan said so many people are concerned about the homelessness issue that he feels the money can be raised.

“It’s a major undertaking for a church our size,” Jordan said. “We’ve got a lot of fundraising to do. We’re hoping Fort Worth will stand up with us.”

Recently, Integrity Community responded to a request for a proposal issued by the city of Fort Worth, which is looking to expand the number of permanent supportive housing units in the city. Through its Directions Home program, the city was offering to loan $600,000 for gap capital funding on projects with a minimum of 20 permanent supportive housing units.

Integrity Community Development was the only one to respond.

The city, however, turned the application down because Integrity Community didn’t complete a section on how it would meet requirements to use minority-owned businesses in the construction. Jordan said they're working to fix their application.

The tiny houses being proposed would be built on slabs and have utility hook-ups. Fort Worth doesn't regulate house size, so the houses are allowed in typical single-family neighborhoods.

Tara Perez, manager of the Directions Home program, said her office was intrigued by the church's concept.

Tiny homes are attractive because of the potential low costs, but Perez said concerns exist when projects are located on city outskirts and not on public transportation routes.

“Some cities have been pairing tiny houses as one of the solutions to end homelessness,” Perez said. “We’re not recommending thousands of tiny homes as the solution to homelessness, but it might be part of that.”

Tiny home projects in Racine, Wis., and Kansas City, Mo., were done for homeless veterans, for example.

Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray, who chairs the City Council’s Housing and Community Services committee, which recently heard about the church's proposal, said more research needs to be done to see if the concept fits in Fort Worth.

She, too, doesn’t like the idea of locating projects in areas that would isolate residents from the rest of the city.

“It’s a big trend. It’s not something we’ve ever really thought about," Gray said. " I would like to know more. ”

Sandra Baker: 817-390-7727, @SandraBakerFWST

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