During Tuesday evening’s Amarillo City Council meeting, officials will consider the second reading of an ordinance that clears the way for the construction of four tiny houses in the 300 block of N. Rusk St. – and possibly an answer to homelessness here.
The Planning and Zoning ordinance would change the classification in the vicinity of North Rusk Street and Northwest 3rd Avenue from Multiple Family District 1 with Specific Use to Planned Development 388 for Tiny Houses.
The rezoning initiative is spurred by Yellow City Community Outreach, whose organizers said their goal is to help address the city’s homeless population by lifting the burden of securing housing while also working with substance abuse recovery agencies as a means of combating outlying issues.
Yellow City Community Outreach representatives said the effort calls for four, 10-by-20 feet tiny homes to be built at a cost of $115 per square foot, but he noted the group’s architect says the land could also adequately accommodate four, 12-by-24 feet structures.
The land for the tiny houses was offered by an anonymous donor, according to Yellow City Community Outreach President and local roofing company owner Dan Ferguson, who said the donors own 10 or 12 additional lots in the area. City officials noted previously there are an estimated 675 homeless people in Amarillo, with 107 being unsheltered and actually living on the streets.
“These homes will house two men or two women – a couple,” Ferguson said. “We recognize 50 tiny homes will take everyone off the street while we work on what’s ailing them, because there’s a reason they’re on the streets. There’s a fine line between enabling and helping. Life is real. It’s time to get down to the real business of addressing the problem. With this tent thing, there’s a reason they’re in the tents. We know that 60 or 70 percent of the tent dwelling population are addicts, with the rest experiencing mental health issues. Where is the humanity of putting a man in a tent? We can do better than tents, because we’re dealing with human beings. If you treat the addiction, homelessness will take care of itself.”
Ferguson said there is long list of people to thank for Yellow City Community Outreach’s vision becoming a reality, beginning with the city council to a myriad of departments such as Building Safety and Planning and Zoning.
“They led me by the hand,” he said. “They want these homes and the community does, too. We have local builders who have been of tremendous help to us. God has put this plan into place and now he’s implementing it. I’m not a civil engineer, I’m not a land surveyor and I’m not an architect. God brought all of us together. He gets all the glory. All of these people came from the Christian community.”
Yellow City Community Outreach officials said the organization will wait for a minimum of 40 days before asking for a financial commitment from anyone who lives in the homes, adding the initial step will be to aid in the process of building self-worth and demonstrating love toward those who have not experienced kinship for an extended period of time.
“It’s time to start putting a dent in this homelessness issue,” Ferguson said. “Once we work on the self-esteem, that’s when we’re going to see lives change. But we have to show those who need our help they mean more to use than being tent dwellers. They’re people, just like you and me. They just need to have their issues seriously addressed.”