Andrew Lunetta is devoting his abundant energy to building “tiny homes” for the homeless in Syracuse, NY.
“For some reason, the homeless population really called to me,” Andrew said. “They’re the poorest of the poor. The most forgotten of the forgotten.”
The logistics of making these tiny homes a reality are complicated. But his philosophy isn’t: If we’re able to help others in need, we should do it.
A survey last year counted 68 chronically homeless individuals in Syracuse. Andrew’s response? In the next five years, let’s build 68 safe environments for them.
Andrew’s organization, “A Tiny Home for Good,” wants to build six 250-square-foot “tiny homes” in two city neighborhoods a couple of miles apart. That’s six homeless people who could be indoors before winter.
But the proposals have hit a snag or two.
Onondaga County owns the land where “A Tiny Home for Good” wants to put four units, and would have to agree to transfer the property.
Andrew hoped the county legislature would discuss the tiny homes proposal at its monthly meeting Tuesday (Sept. 1), but he was told it won’t be brought up. The legislature previously delayed a decision and is doing so again because of “community pushback,” Andrew said.
County legislator Monica Williams, whose district includes the vacant lots, couldn’t be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
Now the other “Tiny Home” site, where two units are planned, may be delayed as well.
Two homes are framed and ready to be moved from a warehouse onto the site as soon as a billboard is removed. But now the company that owns the lot has more questions, Andrew said.
“Since the city or county wasn’t involved, I thought the process would be smoother,” he said.
Time is running short, and a lot has to be done — soon — if the tiny homes are to be up and inhabited before winter.
Andrew’s approach is a calm blend of idealism and realism, but the delays have him frustrated.
While he waits for things to play out with the two parcels, he’s looking for other vacant properties in Syracuse that would be suitable for tiny homes. (Contact him via the “A Tiny Home for Good” site.)
Just 25, Andrew has devoted the past several years to helping the homeless and underserved in Syracuse. He worked the late shift at a men’s shelter for two-plus years, and is on the board of the Brady Faith Center ministries.
Four years ago at the Brady Center, Andrew started the “Pedal to Possibilities” bicycling program for community members as well as the homeless. Three mornings a week, a group rides up to 10 miles through Syracuse. The rides provide exercise, socialization and empowerment.
But to tackle homelessness effectively, Andrew believes in the “housing first” approach championed by the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
The idea is to provide a safe living environment, and follow it up with an umbrella of services — case managers, physical and mental health evaluations and treatment, clothing and job training. It’s working in other cities, and Andrew insists Syracuse has enough resources, financial and otherwise, to succeed.
Government agencies, not-for-profit organizations and individuals can all do their part, Andrew said.
“There are so many faith-based communities that can cover the bases,” he said. “People can check in on the residents, and see how to help once they’re housed.”
Maria Sweeney, a Syracuse advocate who runs Maria’s Outreach, says Andrew’s tiny homes plan reflects his compassion and his innovative ideas to solve the problem of homelessness in the community.
“A Tiny Home for Good not only provides housing, but also fosters a sense of dignity and respect,” Maria said. “Andrew is an amazing leader.”
Andrew has felt the pull to help others for a long time. After high school, he joined City Year and worked with kids in a school in Cleveland. Then he earned a bachelor’s degree in Peace and Global Studies from LeMoyne College and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Syracuse University.
He’s putting all that to work on the streets of Syracuse, where he can directly help the people he most wants to serve.
The poorest of the poor, the most forgotten of the forgotten.