Eddie Patterson, 57, moved into his teal blue, wood-frame house in May. A floral wreath hangs on his white front door, and a white wooden rocking chair fitted with a red striped cushion sits at one side of his covered porch.
His is one of three homes situated on Serenity Circle at Promise Pointe, a tiny home community for the homeless located in Raisin, about 10 miles south of Victoria.
The community of tiny homes extends west on 12 peaceful acres behind an attractive brick house that borders U.S. 59. The 2,700-square-foot main house was custom built in the early 1960s, and Sister Rebecca Janacek and Sister Maria Goretti Warzecha, both sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, live there. They manage the non-denominational, faith-based nonprofit established by community leaders who care about the homeless.
Four tiny houses are built and six are in progress, and the goal is for all 10 to be completed by Christmas, Janacek said.
Sherri Strickland, board member for Promise Pointe, discusses the tiny home community for chronically homeless individuals.
“Many of the homeless receive incomes but have no place to live,” Patterson said. “You get tired of living here today and there tomorrow, and many go back and forth between the streets and their families.”
Patterson brings 35 years of experience in construction and remodeling to his community and nearby neighbors.
“We become like family out here. We pull together and learn to work together to survive,” Patterson said. “On the streets, when they have food, they would rather throw it away than give it to you.”
Patterson reaches out to his former neighbors still living on the streets to restore their lives to Christ. He invites them to church and describes the life he has found at Promise Pointe. He believes they, too, gradually will move in the direction he has.
“Their families come to visit, and some of them have been estranged from their families,” Janacek said. “And now they are here in a safe and secure place; they are no longer a threat to the family, and their relationships are healing. We are welcoming them back into mainstream society.”
The board of directors established criteria for residency at Promise Pointe based on an assessment conducted early in the planning process. The directors discovered that single adults are most vulnerable in the search for affordable housing after all other resources are exhausted.
Among other criteria, residents must be age 18 or older and single to join the community.
Mid-Coast Family Services is required to help the most vulnerable members of the homeless population because of funding provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. On the vulnerability spectrum – one being least vulnerable and 20 being most – Promise Pointe serves those who fall between six and 10, just under those on the spectrum who are served by Mid-Coast.
This is not temporary or transitional housing, Janacek said. Residents can live their entire lives in the community provided they generate twice the income necessary to pay rent, which is $300 per month, including utilities, and obey civil law and rules established by the community. The three residents currently residing in the community receive either disability or Social Security income.
Promise Pointe encourages residents to work to supplement their incomes whenever possible and contribute their individual skill sets to the community. Some face health challenges that make work less feasible, but others find opportunities for employment in their immediate and surrounding communities.
“Neighbors are hiring residents for lawn and construction work,” Janacek said. “They are helping each other, which is what we want.”
Patterson installed the kitchen cabinets and closet doors in the last tiny home.
Patterson’s house is near the sophisticated hen house. Egg hunters enter the air-conditioned portion of the house and pull down drawer handles to grab fresh eggs from nests located outside. In the nearby garden, residents currently are growing sweet potatoes, pumpkin, tomatoes, green beans and kale, Janacek said. The tiny homes are connected by freshly-poured concrete walkways that weave through neatly mowed grassy expanses.
Each 300-square-foot tiny home has electricity, a refrigerator, and air-conditioning/heat. They come fully furnished when a resident moves in. In addition to built-in kitchen cabinets and a closet, homes include a microwave, twin bed fitted with linens, a small dining table with two chairs, dinnerware, cookware, a lounge chair, a towel set, a handmade quilt donated by a quilting club and a rocking chair for the front porch.
“The homeless are exposed for a long time and tend to close themselves off when they get into a house,” Janacek said. “We want them to socialize, so they share a cooking facility, bath and laundry, and they have front porches with rocking chairs.”
Each resident arrives to find a stocked pantry as well as a decorative, countertop cookie jar filled with cookies baked by the sisters. Moving forward, the resident is responsible for replenishing the contents of the pantry. They are encouraged to continue obtaining food products from nonprofits to which they are accustomed in addition to other sources.
The recently painted bright blue “Bath and Beyond” building soon will accommodate five bathroom units that residents will share. All but one bathroom unit is in progress, and behind each door is a sink under a well-lit mirror, a shower and a toilet. The shared laundry facility currently has a washer and two dryers, and another stacked washer-dryer unit awaits installment. Upstairs, the building also houses a library and recreational room with a television. An exercise room and craft room complete with sewing machine soon will help occupy the downstairs.
Community members share a kitchen in a building just behind the main house. A large wooden deck constructed in the late 1970s surrounds the kitchen building, and several mature shade trees rise through meticulously cut holes in the wooden planks. The sisters and other members of the community gather once each month at the table in the kitchen to enjoy a meal together.
The board plans to expand the community to include 22 tiny homes with additional communal amenities to accommodate more residents. Plans also include a 24-spot parking lot at the front of the property, a prayer space, a dog park, a gathering space outdoors with fire pit and movie screen, and a large community garden with fruit trees.Memorial Park, a mausoleum where residents can be buried above ground, is another feature on the horizon.
“Residents were so relieved by this feature,” Janacek said. “They worried about where they would end up.”
As the community grows, the aim is to develop micro-enterprises that help supplement residents’ incomes and support the community, Janacek said. Enterprises include an art studio, carpentry and welding shops, and a farmer’s market that sells produce from the gardens and eggs from the chicken house. Also, Janacek mentioned that the prayer space could serve as a picturesque backdrop for wedding and other special photographs.
“When we have more residents, we want to give each one a fruit tree in the garden to care for,” Janacek said. “They can eat and sell their fruit at the farmer’s market.”
An obstacle facing some potential residents is reliable transportation, Janacek said. The Rural Transit System’s hours of operation are limited.
“One man decided not to move here because he could not get to his job by 6:20 a.m. each day,” Janacek said.
Patterson owns an automobile and offers Uber-like services to help residents reach their destinations to the extent that he can. The residents are working on chipping in funds to establish a group trip to the grocery store once each week.
Each home requires about $15,000 to build, Janacek said. That sum would be closer to $20,000 without discounted materials and services provided by many local businesses and builders. Three members of the Victoria Builders Association already are providing professional construction services, and two more are soon to join the effort.
Promise Pointe welcomes volunteers to share their skills and philanthropists to donate their financial resources.
Nine committees offer plenty of opportunities to get involved. The committees include property care, property expansion, financial development, budget, micro-enterprise, human resources, promotion and marketing, volunteer recruitment and resident selection.
“This whole thing is a God thing,” Janacek said. “When we need certain skills and help, here they come; they just show up. We pray every day, and we are thankful.”