Meet the young man behind ‘A Tiny Home for Good’

Andrew Lunetta stands in front of one of the vacant lots where his organization, "A Tiny Home for Good," plans to build residential units for the homeless in Syracuse, NY.

Andrew Lunetta in front of a vacant lot where his organization, “A Tiny Home for Good,” plans to build residences for the homeless. The proposal has been delayed while it awaits action by Onondaga County, which owns the land.

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.

Homes.

Andrew Lunetta

Andrew Lunetta

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.

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About Jim McKeever

Writer, father, runner, advocate based in Central New York.
This entry was posted in Homeless, Irish Investigations, poverty and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Meet the young man behind ‘A Tiny Home for Good’

  1. Win Thurlow says:

    I’ve followed Mr. Lunetta’s work for a while now and had the chance to chat with him at the Y a couple of months back. We need more like him. For all the talk about trying to make our community appealing to young professionals (a worthy goal), can you imagine if, instead, we made it appealing to more Andrew Lunettas?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Angie Mc says:

    Terrific post, Jim. As a gal who worked with the homeless and other underserved populations while in my 20’s, I feel very connected to Andrew and his cause. The level of governmental red tape and fear surrounding the homeless and their needs is huge, so HUGE that I applaud everyone in the trenches, especially those finding practical and streamlined solutions. Good luck to all involved and it is a joy to root for Andrew, his cause, and all who will be served.

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  3. Oh man, you find the coolest people to write about Jim! Best wishes for success for Andrew! ❤
    Diana xo

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  4. Pingback: 9 life hacks to improve social media tool use, enjoy avocados, forgive those who don’t deserve it, and more. | Family Love Does More

  5. reocochran says:

    Jim, I like this post because you remind people that homeless ones need somewhere of their own to call home. I like my church where I used to attend more regularly with my 3 children. It has the highest donations of manual labor and funding to Habitat for Humanity. I am sure surprised at more than 20 homes I have met the people who live there in one way or another. We have several homeless people and I have written “character studies” on three of them, trying to use what have observed with simple conversations I have had with them. Everyone is only a few steps away from losing a lot. I went from a marriage with a beautiful home we built from the ground up to a 1 bedroom apt. I am grateful for this post, Jim.

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    • Jim McKeever says:

      Thank you, Robin … There are a lot of good people out there, and yes, homelessness could happen to any of us. Community support, whether it’s from organized groups or from individuals going solo, is crucial. Andrew’s organization has been helped by Operation Northern Comfort, a Central New York group that has taken dozens of trips to New Orleans to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. They have an annual fundraiser and donated money, materials and labor to frame the two tiny homes that are ready to go up. Stay tuned. I hope there’s a happy ending. Jim

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  6. Andrew Lunetta is more than an advocate for the homeless. He is a reminder for all of us that we have the ability to help, to serve, those who are less fortunate than ourselves. And a reminder of what kind of person we can be. I hope the red tape is cut and those who can help Andrew do so.

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  7. I am very disappointed to read about setbacks re: Andrew’s plans to provide housing for chronically homeless people. My own work and research on the streets in Central New York has shown that nearly all members of this population are disabled, most often with brain injuries and psychiatric disorders. In my opinion, traditional programs generally do not adequately address their unique and complex needs.

    Andrew is working to provide housing and intensive supportive services that will accommodate these needs. I encourage city and county authorities to provide his organization with the vacant lots that they need.

    We cannot continue to stand down while human beings suffer terrible, premature deaths on our streets. In the last couple of years alone, homeless people have burned to death, been beaten to death and frozen to death in Syracuse. Certainly this is an emergency situation. Help Andrew to help.

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  8. What an inspiration he is Jim, I hope it all goes to plan and please post photo’s of the homes when they get the go ahead. I wish Andrew all the success in the world.

    Like

  9. markbialczak says:

    Andrew, you are a warrior for what’s right. Legislature: Really? Thanks, Jim, for shining your light.

    Like

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