Tiny Home Imagined by Big Hearts

The children at St. Augustine Episcopal Church have big hearts for the homeless and those needing affordable housing.

What started out as project to provide a tiny home for someone experiencing homelessness morphed into an affordable small home rental that is managed by Harbor Habitat For Humanity. Many community organizations came together to make this project possible, including a grant from the Berrien Community Foundation.

“There’s a lot of pride we have for these kids,” said Bruce Banghart, a congregant at St. Augustine Episcopal Church. “It was the kids’ idea and it caught on in the church and then in the community. It’s really rewarding that we get to enjoy doing something and at the same time knowing it is helping someone who could use a little boost in the world.”

The project was imagined by children in the church’s Children’s Chapel and overseen by a three-person board; Banghart focused on construction while Cara Gillespie and Vicki Schroeder worked on the fundraising and business side of things. The kids recognize there is a great need in the community for affordable housing, and this tiny home was a solution. According to the United States Census Bureau, 15.1% of people in Berrien County live in poverty, which is higher than the state average of 12.6%.

Berrien Community Foundation grants help nonprofit organizations meet community needs — and that’s exactly what these children were doing. BCF awarded a For Good Grant for the project, but the tiny house was put on hold for a year during the height of the pandemic.

Finally, at the beginning of December the house was completed, and the keys handed off to Harbor Habitat for Humanity during a house blessing. Now, Harbor Habitat For Humanity will work on finding a renter.

It took the work of many organizations to make the house build a success — from the church’s diocese to Lowes to the Thursday Crew who built the house. Architecture students at Andrews University also chipped in by designing the home and building walls. The house has a main floor of 600 square feet with a 400 square-foot loft. It’s located on Linden Avenue in Benton Harbor.

The whole process was a cool experience for the kids, Banghart said. And plans are in the works to get the ball rolling on a second tiny home soon.

For Good Grants are awarded twice per year. The next round of applications are due by February 25, 2022. To learn more about For Good Grants, visit https://www.berriencommunity.org/forgood.