EASLEY — The Dream Center is one step closer to making dreams come true: Opportunity Village is now a growing reality for the homeless in Pickens County.
Over the next few months, 23 tiny houses will begin to pop up in Opportunity Village in an effort to alleviate the lack of a homeless shelter within the county. It will serve as a stepping stone to independence for the homeless, part of a six-month program to increase life skills and job skills.
“Many people don’t have a problem getting a job. They have a problem keeping a job,” said Michael Barnes, director of operations for The Dream Center.
It is through the program affiliated with Opportunity Village that these issues are met head on, although Jim Wilson, co-founder of The Dream Center, said this “will not alleviate homelessness in Pickens County, but it’s a start.”
The Dream Center’s philosophy of “a hand up, not a hand out” is part of the three-step process for the homeless to transition to a self sufficient life.
The first step will be an individual plan for success to include counseling and classes designed to increase life skills. Once certain milestones are reached, participants will move up from one of the 15 tiny houses — designed for basic living — into step two.
Step two is comprised of eight units, slightly larger than the tiny houses, and will be occupied by those who have achieved their goals in step one.
“Dream Dollars” are how tenants pay their way in the first two steps of the plan, earned by completing assignments, classes, volunteering, etc.
In step three, participants will move to one of the 10 residences that will be prepared in a nearby neighborhood. By this point in the program, participants will be employed and pay their rent through their earnings, at a reduced rate, as they prepare to find a residence outside of the program.
The Dream Center also will provide assistance for transportation through the three stages to help the participants maintain employment and continued success.
A “village raising” will be held Oct. 22 where some of the initial tiny houses will be assembled.
The Dram Center receives no federal funding and relies on donations from businesses and private individuals. In this case there have been quite a few which have come forward to help including ScanSource Charitable Foundation which gave $200,000. The Don Jones Family, United Way of Pickens County, Dabo Swinney’s All-In Team Foundation, Blue Ridge Electric Coop, and Duke Energy are all on board as well.
Sponsorships of homes are available as well. Baptist Easley Hospital has already stepped up to do so, as have students at Powdersville High School. Sponsorships range from $15,000 to $25,000 with donors recognized on each home for their support.
Residents will be required to pass random drug testing and stay within the gated village unless they have received permission to leave.
For more information, go to www.dreamcenterpc.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.