A Tiny Home Campus for Homeless Youth Opens in Oklahoma City
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A Tiny Home Campus for Homeless Youth Opens in Oklahoma City

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By Duncan Nielsen
Nonprofit organization Pivot is providing low-rent tiny homes to homeless teens—and equipping them with the skills to transition to new apartments.

Earlier this month, youth assistance group Pivot celebrated the opening of three tiny homes on a 12-acre plot in Oklahoma City. Move-in day took place last weekend, with select teens who were already working within the program receiving coaching on becoming responsible renters. It started with a review of the lease agreement.

"If you haven’t had that mentored to you, you need to learn," says Melanie Anthony, vice president of development and community engagement at Pivot. The young people she works with lack the resources to learn basic skills, and need help navigating the trials of adult life.

Teens moved into the first three tiny homes this weekend at Pivot’s Tiny Home Community in Oklahoma City. The 12-acre property has room enough for a total of 85 homes, and there’s a waiting list for when the next units are built.

After the deals were inked, each teen settled into their very own 280-square-foot, fully furnished home where they are now responsible for their own cooking, cleaning, and day-to-day maintenance. They’ll learn the tenets of neighborliness, and will have routine check-ins with 24/7 on-site support to keep them on track towards a healthy school or work/life balance. 

"The whole purpose of this is to show them that they can overcome and that they have those resources, but do it in a way that’s empowering and not enabling," says Anthony.

Each tiny home comes fully stocked and furnished to make for a smooth transition for each individual. 

The first three homes’ designs were donated by Oklahoma architect William Silk.

A total of 85 homes will be built at the 12-acre Tiny Home Community, should the concept prove beneficial for the residents. 

While Pivot provides temporary housing for some teenagers, the 16-bed shelter is often at capacity and has an age restriction. The new renters, who are all over 17 years old, fall into an age gap.

Rent at the community is low on purpose—just $100 a month. It’s more like keeping a promise than paying a bill, and provides small, achievable benchmarks that build confidence. Over the course of an individual’s stay, rent will nudge up to no more than $150. The whole experience is meant as a launching pad, but individuals will leave only when ready and on their own terms.

The Pivot team poses in front of a pair of tiny homes at the 12-acre tiny home community. From left to right: Terry Clinefelter, Marcus Ude, Melanie Anthony, Stephon Smith, and Richard McKown.

In general, tiny homes have experienced a wide surge in popularity as they tout simplicity, sustainability, and a low cost of living. At Pivot’s Tiny Home Community, those baked-in, bite-sized attributes are perfect for teens learning to live on their own for the first time. 

Getting to 85 homes won’t happen unless the concept lives beyond the trial period. "It's not just about building a tiny house. It's about making sure that our concept is sound," she says. "And that the outcomes are what we expect them to be for the people."  

A $100,000 grant from Impact Oklahoma—a community-minded women’s charitable organization—helped Pivot bring the idea to life. Local architect William Silk then donated the designs of the first three homes, and more architects are now knocking on Pivot’s door to follow suit.

Learn more about Pivot.

Related Reading:

Yale Architecture Students Build a House For the Homeless 

Los Angeles Funds 38 New Affordable Housing Projects to Help the Homeless

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