At Homes for Hearts, we are committed to building permanent supportive housing with quality, self-managed cottage courts, containing small, single-family houses within Memphis to help pave the way for men and women experiencing chronic homelessness toward home ownership. Along the way, A Lee Dog Story will engage these communities and the greater Memphis community in the stories of those who experience homelessness through the form of a TV docuseries. Combined with A Lee Dog Story, our hope is that we can bring art and community, two fundamental elements of Memphis, together to create permanent community-driven change.

Homes for Hearts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

A Lee Dog Story is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

At Home for Hearts, our vision is to establish affordable and permanent Homesteads that will provide opportunities to those who are currently without housing to build community and to work with other community members to develop relationships and skills that will enable them to transition away from the streets into a lifestyle that is more sustainable and self-fulfilling. These urban Cottage Courts will be self-governed with oversight by a 501(c)3 board. The Homesteads rests on the notion that self-government provides residents with autonomy, responsibility, and respect and will help pave the way towards home ownership. Design and organization of the Cottage Courts will be based upon best practices derived from a comprehensive study of long standing “tent cities” in the United States, lessons learned from local encampments, and a creative understanding of permaculture principles. 

“The people of Memphis have spoken on how they want their city to look in the future. After two years, nearly 200 public meetings and events, and engagement of over 15,000 residents, the City of Memphis has released a public draft of the Memphis 3.0 comprehensive plan. The public draft is the first look at the City’s comprehensive plan for land use and growth in 38 years.” – Memphis 3.0 Plan

We will help Memphis achieve 8 out of 8 goals, and 117 objective actions set forth by the Memphis’ 3.0 plan, which recommends “Building Up, Not Out”. Core focus areas of the Memphis 3.0 plan are connectivity, sustainability, livability, and opportunity. Homes for Hearts will be such a place.

Our Solution :

Cottage Courts will be adapted by Homes for Hearts and community members to fit the character, size, and aesthetic of every neighborhood. Home for Hearts is committed to engaging with as many community members as possible before starting construction. Community members will have a say in a myriad of important decisions including, approving the resident contract, helping decide how the residents are chosen, determining whether the Cottage Court has a security fence and/or 24/7 security personnel on site, and more. We know that community support is critical to ensuring the success of each Cottage Court and we will not build in any community where we do not have significant support from neighborhood residents.

In addition to getting input from the community, we have chosen to keep the size of our Cottage Courts relatively small, only 6 homes and one community house, for several reasons. First, it allows for our Homesteads to be built in neighborhoods inside Memphis city limits, thus increasing density and available affordable housing units to communities that need both. Second, it helps to keep the Cottage Courts affordable and focused on providing housing for residents of the neighborhood. Third, it makes the property more manageable and sustainable. Fourth, a smaller size makes it easier to provide adequate security for its residents and the surrounding community. 

To assure success of our Homesteads (Cottage Courts) we plan to use a combination of already proven models from around the country. The vast majority of successful Tiny Home Developments built across the U.S. have included a Resident Contract, or an agreement between the residents, the tiny home developers, and the surrounding community, to ensure all parties commit to creating the best environment for the community. Our Resident Contract includes stipulations like requiring residents to contribute a certain number of hours per week to improving the community, agreeing to forgo drug and alcohol use while on the property, and more. Each community in which we build a Cottage Court, community members will have an opportunity to review and approve the Resident Contract. 

At Homes for Hearts, we are committed to providing housing for residents of the Memphis community that are currently experiencing homelessness or at risk of being homeless. With that mission in mind, we are also committed to providing a case worker to each of our residents. The case worker will meet regularly with the resident to ensure they are connected to the services they need, including job assistance and training, healthcare, access to government assistance, and more. In addition, case workers will employ the ‘asset-based approach’ to reinforce the belief in our residents that each of them have skills and abilities they can contribute to the community.

Homesteads embrace the dignity of its residents in several ways. First, it gives the residents a safe, warm, private place to place their belongings and return to each day. Second, it allows the residents to experience the freedom of having their own home. They can come and go as they please as long as they take care of their house and the surrounding property. Third, at each of the Cottage Courts, the residents will be encouraged to become a full member of the beloved community, made up of the residents of the settlement and various members of the community. Each of our Homesteads will have a Community House and regular community meetings to build relationships and discuss community issues. By giving our residents a place to call home, a greater sense of individualism and self agency, and a community to surround them with support, we build a beloved community in which our residents can flourish.


Homes for Hearts proposes a pilot project for 6 adults on suitable land controlled by a community land trust that has access to public utilities, public transportation (within ¼ mile), borders that can be controlled, and is at least half an acre in size. Homes for Hearts will construct simple “tiny houses” which are secure, lockable and insulated using a standardized building guide (bottom of page). The Cottage Courts will be self-governed with oversight provided by the Board of Directors. 

The basic, non-negotiable rules will include: 

  1. No violence to yourselves or others 
  2. No theft 
  3. No alcohol, illegal drugs, or drug paraphernalia 
  4. No constant, disruptive behavior 
  5. Everyone must contribute to the operation and maintenance of the Cottage Court. 

To the extent possible, residents will be involved in the building process so that they may earn “sweat equity” toward the value of their shelter. We are partnering with architects and builders who have volunteered to assist in the construction of the Cottage Courts and to hold hands-on workshops constructing compact, simple, and inexpensive structures. Each Tiny Home within each Homestead will include a kitchen and dining area, bathroom and shower, bedroom and living space, all within and under 300 square feet. Each of our Cottage Courts will also house a community house, which will be used as a gathering space for community meetings and provide opportunities for micro-businesses. Each of our Homesteads will also provide a community garden, along with a bicycle rack, containing 6 bicycles to be shared by all residents.

A Lee Dog Story TV docuseries aims to give residents of the Homes for Heart’s Homesteads a voice to share their experiences of life on the streets and their road to permanent, affordable housing. Through the power of film we will give our community and city a platform to speak on some of the causes and effects surrounding Memphis’ affordable housing and homelessness crisis and also causes and effects of homelessness. 

With the help of a National Media Network, A Lee Dog Story aims to help raise national awareness of some of the causes and effects surrounding homelessness, helping create a new paradigm on poverty and homelessness. 

Through A Lee Dog Story’s TV series, we aim to showcase Homes for Heart’s Cottage Court residents, volunteers, case workers, social workers, health care specialists, community leaders, neighbors, construction team, and a community coming together to help bring a positive change to our city.

A Lee Dog Story will also showcase its artists that have helped contribute their work to help fund this project.

Tiny Home Developments can cost as little as $60,000, but are generally built between $100,000 – $500,000 as opposed to the millions of dollars required to build a new emergency shelter. Tiny Home settlements can help provide sustainable housing for people with low income. In addition, Tiny Home Developments take only 4-6 months to build, as opposed to the years that it can take to get a new emergency shelter built and approved. For example, Union Mission broke ground on phase one of their new $35 million shelter in October 2018 and has still not completed the project.

In addition to the reduction in cost and time to build THDs, tiny homes are also more environmentally and ecologically friendly than other types of housing. A study conducted by Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality found that reducing a house’s size is the single most important factor in reducing its environmental impact. Our smallest tiny homes are 86% smaller (300 – 400 square feet vs. 2600 square feet) than the average single-family home in the U.S.

Finally, the day-to-day cost of building a Tiny Home settlement, rehousing individuals experiencing homelessness, and maintaining the homes and communities is much cheaper than other options pursued by the Tennessee government. A recent study conducted by Dr. Doug Perkins, Director of Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, found that the annual cost to provide permanent public housing in Nashville is between $5,907-7,618 per person, meaning it could save the city a net per-person savings of between $1,630-3,007 if it invested in building that housing. At Homes for Hearts, we know that placing people experiencing homelessness in Cottage Courts, with individual Tiny Homes can save the city even more money because they are less costly to build and maintain than traditional public housing. Even after adding wrap around services, it is clear that Tiny Home Developments are the most cost effective way to rehouse individuals who are experiencing homelessness.

Housing First is an approach that prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness, thus ending their homelessness and serving as a platform from which they can pursue personal goals and improve their quality of life. This approach is guided by the belief that people need basic necessities like food and a place to live before attending to anything less critical, such as getting a job, budgeting properly, or attending to substance use issues. There is a large and growing evidence base demonstrating that Housing First is an effective solution to homelessness. Consumers in a Housing First model access housing faster and are more likely to remain stably housed. Studies have shown that rapid re-housing helps people exit homelessness quickly—in one study, an average of two months—and remain housed. A variety of studies have shown that between 75 percent and 91 percent of households remain housed a year after being rapidly re-housed.

At Homes for Hearts, we are committed to building  permanent, affordable Cottage Courts, thus establishing permanent affordable housing, in communities who want and need them. Along the way, we will engage these communities and the greater Memphis community in the stories of those who experience homelessness. Combined with A Lee Dog Story, our hope is that we can bring art and community, two fundamental elements of Memphis, together to create permanent community-driven change.

Our Cottage Courts will be often decorated with colorful art to add to the neighborhood’s aesthetic. We will work to collaborate between Memphis artists, community members, and the tiny home residents to ensure each tiny home is painted in a way that uplifts the spirits of all the important stakeholders. In addition, our Homestead plans will include a community house, small gardens and additional bike ways and walkways to ensure the residents feel safe and at home, and a part of a community. Finally, our goal is to provide bikes or electric scooters free of charge to each of the residents so that they can easily access public transportation and job centers. 

The most successful Tiny Home Developments have been bound by community, helping ensure each individual connects to community residents, leaders, and staff to help build lasting, supportive relationships. Our community house will host weekly Community Meetings, Community Building Workshops, while also providing a Laundry Facility. Community is essential for the sustainability of our homesteads, and will ultimately help our residents pave the way toward home ownership.

Homes for Hearts will create:

The opportunity for every participant to experience a better quality of life in a drug, alcohol, and violence free community.

The opportunity for a stable, safe, and sanitary environment where basic needs are met such as food, shelter, medical care, and a sense of dignity and belonging in place and community. 

The opportunity for a self-governed, horizontally structured community where people facing similar issues work together in order to help themselves, and make decisions that directly shape their living environment. 

The opportunity for a non-discriminatory living environment. 

The opportunity to renew life goals and aspirations, and to engage in entrepreneurial enterprises that improve living conditions and economic well-being and assist in transitioning to a more permanent living situation. 

The opportunity to work toward personal and community sustainability. 

The opportunity to meet needs for privacy and personal space while concurrently providing common areas for residents and visitors to enjoy. 

The opportunity to develop mutual aid and peer-based support systems and to collaborate with social service agencies, non-profit organizations, private businesses and individuals whenever feasible. 

The opportunity for people from the larger Tennessee community to engage by providing help and support.

The opportunity for residents to gain ownership of their tiny home. 


Homes for Hearts Tiny Home Models

At Homes for Hearts, we want to ensure that every community has Cottage Courts that fit the wants and needs of the surrounding neighborhood. With that in mind, we have come up with two Cottage Court models that communities can choose from.

Single Occupancy Cottage Courts will be built for communities who want to rehouse individuals experiencing homelessness, chronically homeless individuals, women who have experienced domestic violence or abuse, and other similar groups. 

Elements of Single Occupancy Cottage Court Tiny Homes (each home is under 400 sq ft)

  1. Each tiny home will have a bedroom, a living space, a place for residents to safely store their belongings, a kitchenette, a shower and small sink and toilet.
  2. There will be a Community House where residents will have access to a communal space, conference rooms, a community kitchen and laundry units. 

Single Occupancy Tiny Home Model

Family-style Cottage Courts will be built for communities who want to rehouse families. 

Elements of Family-style Cottage Court Tiny Homes (each home is under 700 sq ft)

  1. Each tiny home will have two bedrooms, a living space, a place for residents to safely store their belongings, a bathroom with a shower, sink, and toilet, and a small kitchen, complete with a sink, fridge and oven. Max occupancy of 4.
  2. There will be a Community House where residents will have access to conference rooms, a communal space, and laundry units.

In addition, Homes for Hearts will also offer each community the opportunity to add additional buildings, security measures, etc. Those opportunities include…

  1. Safety fence.
  2. Safety hut and 24/7 contracted security.
  3. Donations hut.
  4. Small playground or park.

Additional ways we will assure the success of our Cottage Courts:


  1. Community Agreement 
  2. Starter Kit Request Form 
  3. Mentor Procedures and Checklist 
  4. Move In Form
  5. Current Manual 
  6. Beautification Task List 
  7. Move Out Procedures  
  8. Voluntary Move
  9. Unit move in inspection Form 
  10. Utility payment policy 
  11. Leave request forms: Medical, vacation, work and family leave 
  12. Leave policy 
  13. Existing resources in Memphis.
  14. Community House Responsibility and Information

While we continue to develop our organization we will broaden the conversation and educate the larger community on what it is we are proposing. We will accept feedback, respond to concerns, and develop supportive relationships. This will be a great opportunity to grow and diversify our organization. We will first focus on building local support and partnerships that will help Home for Hearts build the political will needed to develop our Cottage Courts in Memphis.

When meeting with key stakeholders, we will provide materials that will help us deliver a clear and consistent message.  

  • Who we are and what our vision and goals are.
  • How our organization intends to help people. 
  • Who we intend to help.
  • What services we intend to offer. 
  • Our organization’s track record.
  • Who our supporters are. 
  • What our plans are for the future. 

Homes for Hearts Case Statement:

Who We Are : Homes for Hearts (HFH) is a group of concerned individuals and organizations in the Memphis area who, in collaboration with A Lee Dog Story, work together to craft a permanent solution to homelessness. We embrace the opportunity to work with diverse people in a spirit of cooperation, including: local residents, individuals who are unhoused, governmental authorities, nonprofit agencies, faith communities, foundations, businesses, and others who are trying to make basic housing more available to those who need it.

Our Goals:

Advancing self-sufficiency and human dignity: Safe, stable, affordable housing is the foundation upon which people can achieve a better life. Evidence-based studies in many cities across the United States have demonstrated that providing housing first provides people the security to address other issues that are barriers to their success. Homes for Hearts is committed to fostering personal responsibility, independence, self-governance and the life skills necessary for people to move out of unstable living situations and into brighter futures. 

Safe, stable, well-designed tiny homes: People have a right to personal housing that not only is safe, weatherproof, durable and functional, but also feels like home. It must be well built and secure—even if it is very small—and integrated into the surrounding neighborhood. Homes constructed by HFH will be compact, highly affordable housing units that provide comfortable personal space for residents. Green design principles and materials will be used as much as possible.

In a Homestead setting: In order to foster a sense of community, build self-governance skills and personal responsibility, and develop pride among residents of their Homesteads, Homes for Hearts will have communal spaces where residents can come together to get to know each other and mutually plan for their community’s success. Residents will be involved in the operation and maintenance of the community with oversight and support provided by the Homestead.

For those who need them most: The cost of housing is prohibitive for many people whose physical, mental, or economic conditions limit their ability to maintain private, stable and secure living space. Homes for Hearts will serve Memphis residents with very low-incomes that are currently unable to access affordable housing, and will strive to make their housing available first to those who otherwise would have no acceptable housing. HFH and all Cottage Court residents will practice mutual respect and never discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender preference, or any other legal or personal characteristic.

[We will adapt our Case Statement into a Slide Presentation in order to present our project at meetings with community stakeholders, and continue to update these materials as we receive feedback and proceed with the planning process.]

We will continue to identify community leaders and organizations that could be influential in building public and political support for Homes for Heart’s Cottage Courts. 

Successful Homesteads have benefited significantly from a positive relationship with the surrounding community. Fostering such a relationship can help immensely with building the political will. 

Potential community partners in our area : nonprofit organizations, local businesses, faith based communities, schools, universities, service providers

Networking with professionals in Memphis can lead to valuable allies and in-kind donations for our cause. They can provide the skills and technical know-how to help get our project built. 

Professionals that can help Homes for Hearts start a Cottage Court in Memphis :

architects, contractors and construction companies, civil engineers, group process consultants, attorneys, developers

Connecting with related entities can help us identify needs in our community, share information, and connect us with prospective residents. 

Related Entities in our area : affordable housing providers, social service providers, homeless shelters, housing or homelessness coalitions 

Events are a valuable resource for promoting our effort, finding others to collaborate with, and offering educational opportunities to strengthen our local effort. 

Local events we aim to promote at : business conferences, forums, neighborhood association meetings, advocacy events and rallies

Developing relationships with material providers can help keep costs down during construction. 

Local sources that might provide in-kind or discounted materials : salvage yards, recycled building material centers, local businesses, contractors and construction companies

  • Once we have completed our list of prospective stakeholders, we will build a nonprofit and church database, and contact each organization to discuss potential partnerships.
  • Our primary purpose here is to establish endorsements and letters of support. All information from community meetings will be added to our outreach materials as we go along to document community support for what we are proposing. 

We have appointed a Media consultant that will help draft press releases regarding Home for Heart and A Lee Dog Story’s plan and progress. We will continue to write letters to Media outlets to keep the public informed about our endeavors and to establish a presence in the local conversation. We will be sure to offer responses to criticism, and strive to include a variety of voices to demonstrate broad support. 

We will hold a public event in which we invite the Memphis community to intend and hear our plan for affordable, permanent Cottage Courts in Memphis. We will provide informational materials to attendees. We will continue our event presentation efforts in other major cities within Tennessee to continue to build the political will around our project. 

In order to further build political will needed for our Cottage Courts, we will use the following strategies:

Speak Their Language :

Many groups have bold visions for what a more socially just city should look like. However, it is imperative that we not stop after only answering the “what” question, but to continue forward by investigating the “how” question. If we only tell our city that a safe place to be for those experiencing homelessness is needed, we are unlikely to get the desired results. Governments often must facilitate solutions, but they rarely lead them. It is imperative for our organization to take the initiative to lead government to the solution by telling them how to implement the type of project we are proposing.

Example : When asked how the vision for Portland’s Dignity Village could be realized, Mark Lakeman emphasizes the importance of speaking the language of those you are trying to relate to. One method is to adopt existing goals and policies of the city or region. For instance, Dignity Village, Eugene was positioned as a project that would meet new sustainability measures and goals that had recently been locally adopted. And so in their initial proposal of Opportunity Village, Eugene they conveyed how their project aligned with each of the “seven pillars” defined in the city’s “Envision Eugene” plan. By aligning your project with larger, existing goals it becomes more difficult to dismiss.

Homes for Hearts has aligned eight of the eight “Goals” defined in the Memphis’ 3.0 Plan, with 117 “Objective Actions” that we can help Memphis achieve. 

In working with Eugene’s city officials and staff to implement Opportunity Village, they found that the majority of them were supportive of the concept, yet skeptical that it could be formally realized. Having the know-how to draft proposals that meet formal demands can make an idealistic concept seem more pragmatic to this audience.

Core Values of Homes for Hearts include:

Homesteads committed to horizontal organization and self-governance.

Resident participation in the assembling of structures to the greatest extent possible. 

A built environment that demonstrates safety, affordability, energy-efficiency, sustainability and community identity. 

A vetting process based on relationship building.

The adherence of the five basic, non-negotiable rules listed in the Community Agreement. 

Unhoused or previously unhoused representatives on the Board of Directors.

Connectivity and livability that provides opportunity.