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Oklahoma City Nonprofit Turns To Tiny Houses To Teach Teens Life Lessons

Nov 13, 2018

Tiny houses could help Oklahoma City teens learn big life lessons. Pivot, a nonprofit that helps teens who do not have homes, plans to build 12 tiny houses at their campus at 201 NE 50th St.

The Journal Record’s Molly Fleming reports the homes will measure 14 feet by 20 feet. The tiny houses will augment Pivot’s shelter for younger teens between 12 and 17 years old, and a pair of apartments for teens older than 17.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Jacob McCleland: You're listening to the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I'm Jacob McCleland. I'm talking with Molly Fleming. She's a reporter with The Journal Record newspaper. Molly, thank you for joining us.

Molly Fleming: Thanks for having me.

McCleland: Well Molly let's talk today about a story you wrote about tiny houses that are being built at Pivot. First what is Pivot? What does this organization do?

Fleming: Pivot is a nonprofit organization that works with teenagers who may not have a stable homelife or don't have a homelife at all. The organization's motto is that it's a turning point for teens, so we focus on helping teens in five areas: basic needs in housing, education, employment, permanent connections and well-being.

McCleland: So Pivot has a shelter for younger teens and two apartments for teens who are 17 years old and up. But that's not enough space, right. So Pivot is going to build 12 tiny homes on their campus. For clarity here, what are we talking about? Just how tiny are these tiny homes?

Fleming: They will measure 14 feet by 20 feet and be built on concrete foundations. So that's about 280 square feet. The homes are being built on the back of Pivot's property at Northeast 30th, next to you and behind the existing shelter.

McCleland: We mentioned that these tiny houses that Pivot are being built for older teens who need a place to live. Who are these kids? How do they end up there?

Fleming: These teens come to pay for a variety of reasons but they all share a common thread which is they don't have a place to call home. They might be sleeping on a friend's couch, but then they've used up all their stays. Their family might have moved without their knowledge so they are left in the house alone. That's that's an actual story. I heard another true story where the grandmother, this child's caretaker, had died and a teenager was living in a porta potty. He came to Pivot because he had been caught by the police. The challenge is that they're too young to be in a homeless shelter for adults and they may not have a case manager through DHS because the state agency is so strapped. They've fallen through the cracks of caregivers. But that's where Pivot comes into play.

McCleland: And for older teens, what are the benefits of tiny homes over over apartments or the group shelter that's already at Pivot?

Fleming: In a small home like this, they learn about taking care of their own place. They learn about keeping it clean and doing their dishes. That's one of Pivot's goals is teaching life lessons. They also learn to be a good neighbor. You know if you grew up in a bad part of town, they might be used to people blaring music or yelling in the streets at 1:00 a.m. But that's not really being a good neighbor. So they'll learn how to be nice to their neighbors when their neighbor is only a few feet away. The small space also encourages them to come outside. They don't have to feel isolated. So they can hang out and talk to other teens that are there. You don't get that from an apartment where you're in a box inside a box.

McCleland: Could this project expand to a more tiny homes at Pivot beyond the 12 or so that's currently being planned?

Fleming: That's the goal. The goal is ... it's a 13 acre site. They want to have 85 homes total, but they want to see how the first 12 go before they build the rest of them. This project is being funded by a $100,000 grant from Impact Oklahoma. So that's really kind of covering all the city work that needs to be done. But the rest of it is being done with community support. Community members and architecture and construction are helping out. But there's a huge need for building supplies ranging from roofing materials to concrete foundations.

McCleland: Now developer Richard McKown has helped Pivot with this project and he's a big proponent of tiny houses. What's his experience with tiny homes and why is he such a big supporter of this type of development?

Fleming: Richard's family also has Ideal Homes. So he was in single family residential construction before he worked downtown. The McKowns were the developers behind the tiny homes at Food & Shelter, which is the Norman-based organization that provides services to homeless people. There are 32 tiny homes at the Food & Shelter campus. For Richard, I think the tiny homes serve as a way to be creative. He's also an artist but he's conformed in his development work by building codes and city regulations. Pivot's land is zoned for a planned unit development, so there's a lot more freedom within that type of zoning including tiny houses. He even put in the zoning the ability to have concrete exterior homes that can be 3D printed which is super cool. I really encourage you to look that up.

McCleland: Molly Flemming is a reporter at The Journal Record newspaper. Molly thank you for talking with us.

Fleming: It's been great.

McCleland: KGOU and the Journal Record collaborate each week on The Business Intelligence Report. You can find this conversation at kgou.org. You can also follow us on social media. We're on Facebook and Twitter, @journalrecord and @kgounews.

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