Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What Cool Cottages!

On Thursday afternoon, January 28, 2016, our good friend and favorite Dallas Morning News reporter, Tasha Tsiaperas, and I were treated to a guided tour of The Cottages at Hickory Crossing. The Cottages are an innovative permanent supportive housing project of CitySquare. Our tour guide was the man with the plan himself, Keith Ackerman, the project's Executive Director. 
The amount of thought that went into each and every aspect of planning, design, and construction of this project is so impressive. The fifty tiny homes are built in clusters to create a true sense of community. All of the clusters are centered around a common courtyard to further build on that. 

Each tiny home is identical on the inside, and will be furnished with the same brand new furnishings and appliances to maintain a sense of equality. At the same time, residents will be able to choose some household items, differentiated by color and style. On his last training visit, Dr. Iain De Jong pointed out this idea as a Housing First best practice, as it fosters a sense of belonging and connection to one's domicile. 
The skyline view from the community is one you would pay a pretty penny for, and the number of ongoing activities planned for residents is one that would rival any luxury rental community. The community will also be run with an empowering ambiance of self-governance, and true to the philosophy of Housing First, residents will enjoy autonomy within their homes. 

Of course, Housing First is not Housing Only. Keith and his staff will be there to support residents moving in, who might need some time to adjust to living inside. As, this project is intended for homeless neighbors dealing with multiple challenges, the common area next to the club house includes a plethora of facilities to support folks in their journeys. These include a nurse's office, that will be operated by Baylor Hospital (two student nurses joined Tasha and me for the tour), a psychiatric office, that will be operated by Metrocare Services, and a meeting room for twelve step program meetings. 
Left to right - Tasha Tsiaperas, David Gruber and two Baylor nursing students
As Keith walked us through the community, and explained all of the different aspects of this intricate project, I got the sense that with a layperson's eyes I am seeing just the visible part of the "iceberg." There is a clear sense that in addition to all of the thoughtful aspects of this project, that I highlighted above, there is much more below the surface. It is also clear that Keith was the guy to pull this off. A preacher's kid, who worked in halfway houses, is a licensed social worker, with years of therapeutic experience, and was chief operating officer of CitySquare, he has just the type of eclectic skill set to make this community a reality. He is also one of the friendliest guys you will ever meet!

For more information, volunteer opportunities, and to tour the project yourself, check out the project webpage. Fingers crossed, folks will start moving in April. 

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