Tiny house supporters create temporary camp in Dover

Alton Finney, who is homeless, exits his tent in front of Gunn Wealth Management on Division and State streets in Dover on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Alton Finney, who is homeless, exits his tent in front of Gunn Wealth Management on Division and State streets in Dover on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Facing opposition over a plan to build tiny houses for the homeless, a group of advocates has created a temporary camp in Dover to promote the idea.

The gathering, at the corner of Division and State streets, consists of about a dozen small tents, intended to give some homeless individuals shelter and show others what it is like not having a house to retire to at the end of the day.

However, the event has not been officially approved by the city, raising the specter of Dover officials halting the demonstration.

On Tuesday members of Port Hope Delaware, Victory Church and others congregated on the corner of Division and

hairman & CEO of Gunn Wealth Management , LaMar T. Gunn, left, talks with a homeless man who identified himself as "Campfire." (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Chairman and CEO of Gunn Wealth Management , LaMar T. Gunn, left, talks with a homeless man who identified himself as “Campfire.” (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

State streets, holding signs and waving at passing cars.

Organizers expressed optimism the demonstration would be licensed by the city government, giving them the ability to continue to tell people about the tiny homes project.

“What we found is most of the community is not aware of the dire homeless problem,” Victory Church Pastor Aaron Appling said. “And that’s what we’re doing, raising awareness, because most people … if they knew that there was a big problem, they would be doing everything they could to stop it. Most people would.

“But we’re finding that they just don’t realize how dire the problem is or how grave it really is. And so this is helping to expose that, get compassion going, because we believe that people are going to help people.”

Despite being denied authorization by Dover, advocates decided to go ahead with their plans anyway.

The application submitted to city hall did not have all the needed information and was not filed in time to allow it to be approved before the gathering began, Dover Director of Planning and Inspections Ann Marie Townshend said.

“We are trying to work with them to get permits in place,” she said Tuesday afternoon.

Ms. Townshend was hoping to receive more details on the event later Tuesday, which could allow Dover to formally approve the campout.

There were, however, concerns the demonstration would disrupt nearby houses and the tents would encroach on

WHAT DO YOU THINK? After reading today’s story on the homeless demonstration in Dover, what do you think of the tiny houses village idea? Did the demonstration give you a better awareness of the situation? Are there other ideas that would help the homeless in the area? E-mail your thoughts to newsroom@newszap.com or post comments in the Opinion section at www.DelawareStateNews.net.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?
After reading today’s story on the homeless demonstration in Dover, what do you think of the tiny houses village idea?
Did the demonstration give you a better awareness of the situation?
Are there other ideas that would help the homeless in the area?
E-mail your thoughts to newsroom@newszap.com or post comments in the Opinion section at www.DelawareStateNews.net.

Orville Myers Park, she said.

A small area less than a quarter of an acre, the park lies adjacent to the site and prohibits all camping.

Ms. Townshend said city officials have not yet decided what steps to take — if any — if organizers do not file the proper information for approval.

La Mar Gunn, owner of a nearby financial planning business on which several tents sit, said he has advised supporters to disperse without protest if the city orders participants to end their assembly.

Mr. Gunn said he recently learned of the city’s homeless problem and agreed to let advocates use his land to promote their cause.

“As Americans, we have to take care of the least of least, or at least give them a hand, a hand up,” he said. “I don’t think it’s right that we focus so much attention on helping refugees and everyone else when I got people right in my front yard who don’t have anywhere to live.”

James Plaisted waves to motorists on State Street on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

James Plaisted waves to motorists on State Street on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The demonstration, which is scheduled to last until Saturday, is just part of a process some hope will end with Kent County sanctioning the building of 15 tiny houses on Victory Church property.

If approved, the homes will be 200 square feet and contain a bed, toilet and kitchenette.

Supporters have faced opposition from some of the church’s neighbors, but Mr. Appling said organizers are working with the county to develop “a plan forward” with the land zoned as a campground. An application has not yet been filed with the county.

“‘No’ is not an option,” said Port Hope co-founder Cathi Kopera, who hopes to have the houses completed by Christmas.

Supporters said they might hold more campouts around the city, but whether the first one is sanctioned by the city will likely play a role in whether any future gatherings take place.

Mike Stewart, who is homeless, stands next to tents in front of Gunn Wealth Management on Division and State Street in Dover. He says he lost his job, house and truck. after he spent 97 days in jail for a DUI. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Mike Stewart, who is homeless, stands next to tents in front of Gunn Wealth Management on Division and State Street in Dover. He says he lost his job, house and truck. after he spent 97 days in jail for a DUI. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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