TEDxSalem speaker has big ideas for small houses

By Stefanie Knowlton, June 25, 2015

Photo courtesy of Eugene Weekly

Photo courtesy of Todd Cooper/Eugene Weekly

The Rev. Dan Bryant didn’t set out to revolutionize housing for the homeless, it just sort of happened.

Bryant is one of 13 speakers at this year’s TEDxSalem Oct. 3. His home base is First Christian Church in Eugene where homeless and low-income residents go for help, meals and an empathetic ear downtown. So when Eugene struggled with an influx of homeless residents in 2011, the city invited Bryant, along with many others, to brainstorm solutions.

“A place to be” topped the list of needs.

Then in walked Andy Heben, a guy who spent his summer visiting homeless tent cities around the country to understand what works and what doesn’t. Bryant hired Heben and together they persuaded the city to let them pilot a homeless community on one acre of unused city land in 2013.

That’s the genesis of Opportunity Village Eugene, the city’s first successful self-governed homeless community.  As many as 35 residents and five dogs call the village home at any one time.

“This isn’t something I set out to do,” Bryant said. “I was more of a peace and social justice guy working on global issues.”

Now he describes himself as an accidental housing wonk, and he has big ideas for the next evolution of housing for the homeless: Micro Housing.

Currently there are few affordable housing options for homeless residents ready to strike out on their own. There is a five-year waiting list for singles and couples to get Section 8 Housing, a federal housing program for low-income residents.

But Bryant hopes to pilot a solution this year that involves 1.2 acres, tiny homes and big ideas that pick up where Opportunity Village Eugene leaves off.

“It’s a game changer in many ways,” Bryant said, “They have their tiny version of the American dream.”

To hear how Bryant plans to revolutionize housing for the homeless and to listen to other TEDx Salem speakers, get your tickets here.