Dorothy patted her ruby ​​slippers three times and said it before leaving Oz, “There’s no place like home. There is no place like home. For Dorothy, the click of her heels, the thought of home, and the wand of Glenda the Good Witch was all it took to teleport her safely to Kansas into the loving arms of Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, but for Cullman County’s homeless population, finding “home” isn’t so easy in Hollywood. You see, Travis Sharpe, President and Founder of Unsheltered International, doesn’t have a magic wand or a warehouse full of ruby ​​slippers, but what he does have is a mission to help and hope to homeless people around the world.

Travis Sharpe’s story began in 1996 when he encountered his first homeless person. He says this encounter changed the course of his life. Since that day, he has made it his mission to serve the homeless and has never looked back. Travis organized and led the City Bus Route at Victory Baptist Church in North Augusta, SC from 1997-2001 and started and led the Garden City Rescue Mission in Augusta, GA from 2001-2009. His desire to care for the homeless shelter globally led to the establishment of Unsheltered International in 2011 and Unsheltered International, Philippines in 2015. Since then it has cared for street children, squatters, homeless adults in developing countries, partnered with foreign nationals in various ministry locations, worked in homeless camps and on the streets of more than twenty-five U.S. cities, led disaster relief efforts in five states, preached revivals and served in prison and jail ministry.

Unsheltered International’s head office is here in Cullman. Their homeless ministry is multifaceted and includes working directly with homeless people, helping to create new ministries, and helping churches reach the homeless population in their own cities. In 2021, Unsheltered International provided $30,694.83 worth of emergency goods and services to people in need right here in Cullman. Although they serve other cities as well, an alarming 72.1% of the people they serve are from Cullman County. Data collected by Unsheltered reveals that 29.5% of Cullman’s homeless people live out of their cars, 12.5% ​​live in hotels, 19.6% live in tents, woods and barns, sheds and buildings abandoned, 8.9% live with family or friends, and 19.6% of Cullman County’s homeless population live on the streets. While providing emergency services of temporary accommodation, food and clothing to the homeless is crucial, it is like putting a bandage on a wound that requires major surgery. The relief is short-lived and proof that the continuation of these provided services is addictive and cripples dignity.

The dream of the Tiny House Village was born out of a desire to be able to provide substantial assistance to the people of Cullman who are ready for a much better life. It was also born from the fact that it is a very long journey and difficult to recover if you have lost safe and affordable housing. The Village is a multi-phase plan that lasted a year and a half. The first phase is currently under construction. The first four houses of the first phase will be 14’x40′ prefabricated buildings placed on pillars with a footer so that they are properly secured. They will have full kitchens and bathrooms. Stage one guests must be able to cook for themselves and be self-sufficient in their ability to care for themselves. Phase two and three homes will be a bit different as they will be supported with a bathhouse, kitchen, and other amenities through the community center that will be built later. Homes will be both attractive and durable, giving a cabin and cottage feel.

What The Village will be: It will be an advanced supportive housing program that uses discipleship, education, and personal accountability to help people reach their greatest potential. Before a guest can enter the program, there will be a thorough application and evaluation process that will take place. The Village will provide great opportunities for people who not only want them, but are willing to work hard to get them. Accepted guests will be paired with a case manager who will help set achievable life goals tailored to the individual. Each guest will be responsible for the little house they live in. He will have to clean the interior and exterior and perform other tasks within the village community. A one-on-one program that uses case management, supportive housing, education, and Christian discipleship adds dignity to the lives of opportunity seekers and promotes positive reintegration into a functioning society.

What The Village will not be: It will not be a homeless shelter where people can check in at night and leave the next day. Unsheltered International already provides emergency services in another capacity. This is not a drug or alcohol rehabilitation center. The Village would be for someone who has already completed a rehabilitation program or people who have never had a drug addiction in their life. It also won’t be a flop-house for people wanting a free ride. It takes hard work and dedication and commitment to follow the plan set out by the case managers to keep a place in the Village. The Village is for people who possess the desire to positively change the trajectory of their lives and one day become faithful Christians who contribute profitably to our community. Most villagers will stay in the program for 6-12 months.

Travis Sharpe’s home sweet home vision came to his heart in a dream. He explains that he actually fought God and didn’t want to pursue that dream, but is now committed to making the Village a place of stability, serenity, and hope where disciples are made. and lives restored. The Village property is located at 7145 HWY 278 West in the community of Bethel. Stop and check out the model home and be sure to notice the craftsmanship inside and out. Unsheltered International is a faith-based non-profit organization. The development of the Village is financed by private donations. They do not plan to receive government funding, so private grants through foundations and workplaces are always welcome. Land clearing and infrastructure work cost $175,000. The houses in the first phase will cost $168,000 ($42,000 per house). The total planned cost of the first phase is $343,000, of which $159,850 has already been raised. $183,150 is still needed to complete the first phase.

Donations can be made payable to Unsheltered International and mailed to: Unsheltered InternationalPO Box 2625Cullman, AL 35056

You can also visit unsheltered.org/donate for other ways to submit your contribution. On March 3, Unsheltered will be hosting their annual livestream fundraiser, which is a type of marathon share streamed from their Facebook page as well as Youtube.

**If you currently need emergency services, you can contact 256-615-6024 for assistance.

By Tara Meharg

* If you know a wholesome, native story that needs to be told, well, I’d love to tell it. Please email your suggestions to [email protected]


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