Sumter United Ministries is expected to add five tiny houses to its shelter ministry in an effort to better assist people who need to transition to living independently.
Initial design plans for the tiny house project were given approval during …
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Initial design plans for the tiny house project were given approval during the Sumter City-County Board of Zoning Appeals' meeting Wednesday.
The designs include multiple variance requests to fit the small houses on the organization's limited space.
The next step is working with architects and contractors to get a detailed design of the tiny houses, SUM Executive Director Mark Champagne said Thursday.
The shelter ministry has been exploring different ways to better transition people out, and tiny houses could give people the opportunity to do that, he said.
"This will have a very big impact on our emergency shelter ministry," Champagne said. "It opens up a lot more possibilities."
The building on Oakland Avenue is severely in need of a lot of repairs, he said. Tiny houses could also benefit families so parents do not have to live separated from their children long term, he said.
Children cannot stay at the emergency shelter on Oakland, Champagne said, so some parents have them stay at Crosswell Home for Children, a partner with the emergency shelter.
Ultimately, he said, the tiny houses will provide a living space for people before they leave the shelter ministry.
Right now, Champagne said, SUM only operates a night shelter between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. Adding the tiny houses will expand the ministry and provide five new dwellings, each with bed space for four people, he said.
Each tiny house will include two bunk beds, a bathroom with a shower, small closet area, a mini-refrigerator and a microwave, as well as heating and air, he said.
Before a person can be given a key to one of the tiny houses, Champagne said that person will need to build a good track record and trust during a certain amount of time with the shelter ministry. He said that time frame may be something like 30 to 60 days, though nothing is set in stone yet.
There will be periodic inspections of the houses.
"We want them to last," he said.
In addition to the five tiny houses, SUM intends to create a new shelter by renovating a storage building at its Artillery Drive location.
Champagne said the ministry plans to grow the bed count in the new emergency shelter and change a few utility features when the new facility is designed.
After taking over the shelter on Oakland Avenue in December 2010, he said, SUM knows what to expect for an emergency shelter.
Having the five transition houses and shelter on the same campus will be better for the ministry and people it serves, he said.
The goal is for a person to have a good, solid foundation - a full-time job and money saved - by the time he or she leaves a tiny house or the shelter, he said.
Champagne said he has been working with Jason Hardee of JJ Hardee Construction and Design, Scott Bell of RS Bell Architects and Ed Bynum of Bynum Insurance to plan the final phases of the project.
He said he hopes to have a detailed rendering and get a building permit within the next few weeks.
"We want," he said, "to go about everything the right way."
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