They may be tiny, but they are real houses that will provide shelter for the area's homeless veterans.

On May 11 at Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, the first community fundraiser will take place for the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless Tiny House Project for Homeless Veterans.

"This is our first big fundraiser," says Cindy Kelley, executive director of CSAH. "We've had little things and donations, but this is a fundraiser to make the second payment on the land for the Tiny House project.

"It is an event put on with tremendous collaboration. There are three primary sponsors and a lot of workhorses on this event.

"A wide variety of others have donated, including local artists for the silent auction," she says. "I think it will be a really fun way to support a really, really important cause."

The 3-acre site east of downtown was purchased in June for $207,200. It will provide up to 72 units with a priority on homeless vets.

The financing deal allows for seven years to pay for the land, with the authority looking to raise private funds. It's a project that has already touched hearts.

Service Brewing Co., Ships of the Sea, and Judge Realty have teamed up to help CSAH raise $30,000 for the land payment. Not only will a neighborhood of tiny houses be placed on the land, but there will also be an organic garden plus three clubhouses for community meals, workshops and health and wellness programs.

Food for the Tiny House, Big Heart event will be provided by Big Bon Pizza and Chef Lauren Teague of Atlantic. The $10 admission price includes a door prize ticket and one Service Brewing beer.

The event is family friendly, and those under 21 will receive a drink ticket for non-alcoholic beverages.

"In addition to our primary goal of housing homeless veterans, we want to show the community there are alternative ways to build affordable housing and affect the housing crisis," Kelley says. "We currently have a waiting list of 15,000 people waiting for affordable housing in Chatham County.

"In addition to that, we provide services to more than 4,000 homeless people every year," she says. "We have to choose more innovative ways to develop housing that benefits people."

Larger units are too expensive to construct.

"We think considering the size of housing is important," Kelley says. "Especially some of our young folks would enjoy living in smaller units. Not everyone can live in 2,000 to 4,000 feet downtown."

The houses will be arranged in six villages. The authority is currently in the permitting process to clear the land.

"It's happening more slowly than I would like," Kelley says. "But it is moving forward."

The event will include live and silent auctions, raffles, music, food, wine, beer and spirits.

"People can have a pleasant and meaningful experience with no rain," Kelley says. "That's the plan."

There has been no lack of volunteers, either.

"It hasn't been hard to reach out to people and see if they wanted to be part of it," says Meredith Sutton, co-owner and creative marketing director of Service Brewing Co. "Everyone we called wants to be part of it. It's been easy, really.

"Almost everyone in Savannah knows homelessness is an issue. They can see it; they can see the camps when they're driving down President Street.

"Everybody knows a veteran," she says. "Everybody can relate to what it's like not to have a home."

Donations of all types are coming in.

"We have 21 artists who are creating tiny house panels, including Josè Ray and Marcus Kenney," Sutton says. "We also have the Savannah Clay Community creating fruit bowls for auction.

"The SCAD Metals and Jewelry Club made brooches to be given to high-dollar donors," Sutton says. "They are all one of a kind."

Both the event and the cause it supports have gotten a lot of attention in Savannah.

"It's an issue we can't ignore," Sutton says. "It can happen to any of us.

"It's a really interesting project. People are all into the tiny house movement, and being able to combine it into helping somebody brings a lot of interest.

"People are curious," she says. "They want to help and want it to be successful and want to know more about it."

"The tiny house model is available for people to tour, if there are groups, churches and individuals interested in learning more about the project," Kelley says. "I'd be happy to meet with them."


What: Tiny House, Big Heart

When: 5-9 p.m. May 11 (rescheduled from May 4)

Where: Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, 41 MLK Jr. Blvd.

Cost: $10

Info: ,

Also: Those who can't attend the event but want to donate can mail to: CSAH, 761 Wheaton St., Savannah, GA 31412. Make checks payable to "CSAH Tiny House Project" and put "Tiny House, Big Heart" in the memo line. Please include name, address and contact information so a donor acknowledgment letter can be sent.