The Creative Mind Behind The Tiny House Project: Hannah Rodriguez

This summer, we had the privilege of having Hannah Rodriguez intern for Serve Denton. She is leaving us this week to finish her last year of the interior design program at the University of North Texas. In just a short three months, she helped start an initiative here in Denton, one with the word “tiny” in the name, but no tiny task at all – the Tiny House project. She is one of the reasons the conversation about legalizing tiny houses in Denton has been brought to light. Instead of me blabbing on about what she accomplished this summer, I’ll let her answer the questions!

What was your role at Serve Denton?

Conceptual Synthesis. So my job was essentially to explore and sort through tons of ideas with the help of my team and put together the most helpful ones.

From there, I tried to figure out how these ideas are represented and felt in the built environment. How can a house or a neighborhood embody a holistic community environment—what does that physically look like? How does someone build that? What is it in the physical environment that makes people want to interact? My job was to figure that out.

What have you accomplished so far?

I created a site plan and five preliminary tiny house designs. To do this, I collaborated with many homeless outreaches and tiny house owners in DFW.

With the generation of this visual starting point, I think I’ve been able to foster a strong sense of unity within the team and that is something I’m extremely proud to have been able to create.

[button url="http://docdro.id/wFKCiL7" color="gray" customcolor="" iconcolor="white="_top" custom_class="" ]Final Site Plan[/button]

What have you learned?

  • I learned a lot about Denton and it's people.
  • I learned that people aren’t what they look like and shouldn’t be measured by my own standard of living.
  • I learned how to learn from opinions with grace and an open mind rather than allowing different viewpoints to offend me. I think I’ve fully grasped the power of positivity in the face of negativity.

What do you see happening with tiny houses (in Denton) in the future? 

Denton is full of unique individuals who are unafraid to venture outside of norms. I think this is the perfect city for tiny houses to flourish. A lot of what I’ve done, I see as not simply for one demographic or one crisis, but as laying a foundation upon which anyone can build. I think people, especially in Denton, are starting to look around and realize they don’t need a lot of (fill in the blank) to have a full life. Tiny houses in all their forms are perfect for that kind of idea, and I think they’ll catch on once the initial step is taken.

Any cool stories/ experiences/ people you've met? 

I’ve met and worked with several city officials, which I kind of find cool because I’m a bit of a nerd. I’ve hung out with Alexis and Christian from the Tiny House Expedition which was one of the coolest tiny house experiences I’ve had so far. Also, everyone at Serve Denton is so inspiring. They are literally always stoked by making an impact in people’s lives.

I’ve met lots of homeless residents. I made a really cool homeless friend named Michael who always reminds me that God loves me which is super encouraging. I’ve spent a lot of time at the library which is always filled with homeless people on the weekends.

Any Final Words?

I sought out this internship because I wanted to help people. What I got out of it was a VIP ticket to a new world. At the beginning, I was really challenged by my unconscious misconceptions of people who aren’t like me. I don’t think I’d ever really taken the time to think about homelessness before. I knew it was a sad thing, but I never really thought about why. Growing up, homeless people were kind of the epitome of stranger danger, and I never really thought about why. It has been truly eye-opening to now be in a position of service to people I’d always kind of pitied from afar.

I’m just at the edge of my seat in anticipation for the day I get to come back to Shiloh Village and be able to meet someone and ask them how they like their house. I mean, hopefully, they don’t hate it. Haha! That’d be pretty depressing.

But seriously, that day is literally the day of my dreams.

Moms Moving Out

This past Christmas, two of the four moms staying at The Wheeler House moved out into permanent housing. This was the goal for Giving Hope INC., the organization that manages the housing portion of The Wheeler House. The Wheeler House provides transitional housing for single moms and their children in a housing crisis. The first mom to move out of The Wheeler House transitioned out in late October. Many of the moms now live in the same apartment complex, which gives them a sense of safety and support. Jamie Gutierrez, one of the moms who recently moved out of The Wheeler House with her three children said it felt like a family the first week everyone moved into The Wheeler House.

Jamie Gutierrez never had to spend a day on the streets because of The Wheeler House, which is one of the reasons she said, “For anyone that doesn't believe that God always finds a way! I lost all hope until I found the Wheeler House! Thank you Giving Hope and Serve Denton."

With the continued help from Giving Hope and our faithful Denton community, these moms will have a support system for the rest of their lives. For more information about The Wheeler House, please contact Serve Denton Executive Director Pat Smith at psmith@servedenton.org or Giving Hope, INC. Executive Director Dr. Alonzo Peterson GH CD at alonzopeterson@hopeincdenton.com.

Fight the Freeze: Helping Keep the Homeless Warm

With the winter months approaching, Audacity Brew House and Karma Yoga Denton came together to host Fight the Freeze on Saturday, December 12. This event was a collaborative effort between local businesses and nonprofit organizations with the intent to collect winter gear for people without secure shelter. volunteersThere were seven drop-off locations around the Denton area including Audacity Brew House, two Kroger locations, The DIME Store and three libraries. Each location had volunteers, recruited by Karma Yoga, who helped organize the drive. This one-day coat drive provided approximately one ton of blankets, sleeping bags and winter clothing for those in need this holiday season. The winter clothing was distributed between Giving Hope INC., Denton County Friends of the Family and Vision Ministries.

If you would like to continue making donations towards this cause, please drop off winter gear at Vision Ministries, located at 626 Wainwright Street, Denton, TX 76201. Their office hours are Tuesday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Together, we can make a difference for the homeless community!