By: Mariel Carbone | WCTV Eyewitness News
December 4, 2017
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- It’s been four days since Paulinea Hazen moved into her new tiny home at “The Dwellings.”
"Coming here was like starting a new chapter in my life,” she said.
The last few months have been tough on Hazen and her family. They lost their home. And spent time living in a car, a hurricane shelter and the Kearney Center. Hazen was also laid off.
"People have turned their backs on us. Gave up on us. But, now I can hold my head up high because I'm just like you. I have a home. I have a roof over my head. A place I can call home. I can hang a picture on the wall and say, 'this is my place," she said.
Hazen is living in one of nearly a dozen homes now open at the Dwellings, a “smart community” of tiny homes off of Blountstown Highway.
The homes are anywhere from 220 to 410 square feet and range in price from about $500 per month to $850 per month. The cost includes water and electric utilities, garbage and security. They’re also fit with smart technology including a smart TV, fiber optic internet, smart locks, lighting and electric meters. Each home even has an Amazon Alexa Echo to operate the home and assist in setting up transportation, doctor’s appointment and case management meetings.
The project aims to address affordable housing for those facing hardship. It also offers assistance like financial counseling and career assistance.
Rick Kearney is the founder of the project.
"This is a way to bring people who have issues, challenges in life, some sort of disadvantage they've been dealt to them that they can live in this community where other people will be there to understand their situation to work together for their own independence,” said Kearney.
"I just wanted to hug [my home]. Because it felt so good,” said Russell Wallace.
Wallace also moved in Friday. He spent time living in a rehabilitation facility following several surgeries. He then lived in the Westgate Community, a transitional living facility also founded by Kearney.
"For the first time in several years, I have a home now. I don't have a house, I've actually got a home,” said Wallace.
All 11 homes that are now open are filled by tenants. A second set of 12 tiny homes will open in the next month and a half; all of which have residents lined up to move in. In total, the Dwellings will encompass 130 tiny homes.
A community center is also slated for construction, which will be finished by Fall 2018. That’ll including house training, educational facilities, laundry facilities, a community kitchen and a group dining hall.