Andrew Lunetta is the founder and Executive Director of A Tiny Home for Good. The son of a special education teacher and human resource worker, the idea of caring for people outside of one’s family and community was ingrained in his DNA. Lunetta lived in Syracuse, New York, in his early childhood before moving to a suburb of Boston, but knew he wanted to come back to the Syracuse area for college. After taking a gap year and completing an AmeriCorps program in Cleveland, Ohio, he enrolled in Le Moyne College. It was there that he first became involved with the homeless community. He began volunteering at a local homeless shelter and was eventually hired as a staff member, working nights while he attended school. After graduating from Le Moyne with a degree in Peace and Global Studies, he completed a Masters in Public Administration from the maxwell School at Syracuse University. His experience at the shelter inspired him to take a stand against homelessness. That drive, combined with the skills he learned at Le Moyne College and Syracuse University, led to the creation of A Tiny Home for Good.
Lunetta described his time at the shelter, stating, “There were so many experiences where guys would move out of the shelter into the only apartments they could afford in Syracuse, which turned out to be bed bug ridden and have code violations and huge roommate situations. In a matter of months, they would move right back to the shelter. There was this cycle over and over and over, and it just baffled me.”
After talking with the individuals living in the shelter, he learned that all they wanted was a safe and affordable place to call their own. After doing research, Lunetta discovered the abundance of vacant lots in Syracuse. This is where the idea of tiny homes came from. Their small size would allow the organization to build multiple on one lot, as well as make them affordable for the tenants.
However, not everyone was on board with the idea. Some neighborhood residents were opposed to the project; they didn’t want to bring homeless people into the neighborhood. They were worried about the tenants’ behavior, but much of that fear was based on misconceptions. Lunetta explained that the only exposure many people have had with homelessness are people panhandling on the side of the road or through negative news stories. To combat these misconceptions, Lunetta makes sure that the residents get to know their neighbors and stresses property maintenance. Additionally, all potential tenants are recommended from local shelters and churches and have to complete an application. These measures are in place to ensure that dependable tenants move in smoothly and to ensure that A Tiny Home for Good has done its due diligence before providing a home..
A Tiny Home for Good has sparked a great deal of positive change for their tenants as well as in the community. It has brought stability to the nine men currently living in the tiny homes, some of whom, before their tiny home, cannot recall a time they stayed in one place for more than six months. Outside of the residents, the tiny homes also impacted the whole community. As a result of the tiny homes in their neighborhoods, many residents have started to take better care of their own homes. Additionally, A Tiny Home for Good has been able to create connections with large and diverse groups through its volunteer program, which is a vital part of the organization.
At every build site, groups from all over come to work as a team to help construct the tiny homes. Lunetta stated, “Seeing people who may not have had the opportunity to do volunteer work in Syracuse or who may never have met an individual facing homelessness coming and sharing a meal or coming and holding a ladder or giving nails to someone who needs some nails from just totally different environments is such a powerful part of A Tiny Home for Good.” Lunetta is extremely hands-on in the organization and spends about half his day at build sites working with the tenants and volunteers. Above all else, working with the tiny home tenant’s and building those relationships is his favorite part of the organization.
Looking toward the future, Lunetta anticipates more and more tiny homes being built but believes that they are not the ultimate solution. He stated, “It might sound surprising, but I don't necessarily think that building tiny homes all over the city of Syracuse is the answer to end homelessness. However, I do feel strongly that they the answer for a lot of individuals facing homelessness.” A Tiny Home for Good’s impact thus far can be seen through the success of its tenants and the organization’s positive effect on the community. For the time being, Lunetta sees more and more tiny homes popping up in Syracuse.
A Tiny Home for Good is a non-profit that could not function without the help of its donors, volunteers, and tenants. Lunetta expressed his gratitude for their generous donors, dedicated volunteers, and tenants who breathe the life into the organization. Their support allows A Tiny Home for Good to continue its efforts in reducing homelessness through the building of tiny homes with a community-driven approach.
By Annelise Hackett