May 19, 2017

Despite the diminutive size of a tiny house project that DPR recently completed for Community First! Village in Austin, more than 50 DPR volunteers brought big building skills and even bigger heart to the job.

The project is part of a 27-acre development owned by Mobile Loaves & Fishes that will ultimately offer around 275 disabled, chronically homeless people in central Texas a long-term living community.

“It’s been nothing short of phenomenal,” commented Alan Graham, director of Mobile Loaves and Fishes at Community First! Village. “The DPR team is just awesome. From a corporate culture point of view, that whole (DPR) team out there has been stellar and it blows me away that a company as large as DPR has such a big heart.” 

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Over 50 volunteers from DPR Austin put their unique, technical skills to work to build a tiny home for a chronically homeless person in Austin. Photo courtesy of Diane Shelton

The large volunteer workforce, including skilled craftspeople, self-perform drywallers, painters, carpenters and others, constructed the tiny house over about two and a half weeks in April. In true DPR style, crews willingly jumped in to help construct the 220-sq.-ft. tiny house with a 300-sq.-ft. rooftop deck, even though all are busy on DPR projects in the thriving Austin market. The volunteer workforce included the many other DPR employees on jobsites who covered their colleagues’ work while they were away building the tiny house.

Graham described the Community First! Village model as a “radical new movement” designed to provide a new start for the formerly homeless.

“It’s really centered around the idea that housing will never solve homelessness, but community will,” he said. 

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Volunteers constructed the house over about two and a half weeks in April. Photo courtesy of Diane Shelton

Record-Setting Build
While the end product itself may be tiny, the challenges getting the tiny house completed on DPR’s self-imposed two-and-a-half-week schedule loomed large. That build schedule easily surpassed the speed that any of the other 130 or so tiny houses on site have gone up to date. 

“DPR built this faster than Community First! has ever seen one of their tiny houses come together – ever,” said DPR’s Angie Weyant, one of the project’s organizers. The team also overcame challenges including inclement weather and design adjustments. 

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The Community First! Village will provide a new start for the formerly homeless. Photo courtesy of Diane Shelton

Taking Stock of Lessons Learned
Although it has been challenging, in typical DPR fashion, volunteers “are already talking about when we do this the next time, how will we do it better?” Weyant said with a laugh. “What makes us different is the initiative and genuine desire of our teams to use our technical and self-perform work skills to make a positive impact in the communities in which we operate.”

For now, they are making plans for a ribbon-cutting or housewarming ceremony, perhaps with the lucky tenant who moves into the DPR-built tiny house. While the reward for the new tenant is a permanent home to live in while they pay rent and contribute to the community around them, for the DPR team, the payoff is simply knowing they made a difference to someone in need.