In an effort to share A Tiny Home for Good with the greater Syracuse community and beyond, we are sharing stories of our residents, board members and volunteers. Recently, we sat down with THG board member, David Chaplin II. David is the Administrator of the Citizen Review Board for the City of Syracuse. Read more about his work on THG's Residents Committee and where he sees the organization going in the future!
THG: What is your story?
David Chaplin II: I grew up from low socioeconomic background. My mom was a single parent, working three to four jobs and going to school full time trying to make a way for herself. I have an older brother with special needs, so I was a little and big brother. I understand struggle.
Now I’m an attorney in the City of Syracuse and the Administrator of the Citizen Review Board, a police oversight agency. I think my public service interests are rooted in my background in a less fortunate upbringing. I think everybody deserves someone to care for them. Everyone should have access to a smiling face or a helping hand. We take those things for granted when we don't experience struggle. I try to add a human element to my work on the Tiny Homes for Good board, saying that yes we're helping them but it is also helping us. Making sure we're not missing the mission because we're doing the work.
THG: Could you elaborate on that?
DC: So the mission is to help end and prevent homelessness. The work is building the home, raising the money for the home, making the community aware of what we're trying to do; that is the day-to-day grind. But the mission is deeper than that. It requires us to pay attention to the people we're trying to impact and how we're impacting them.
THG: How did you get involved with A Tiny Home for Good?
DC: I met with Andrew through a discussion where someone from the Brady Faith Center was speaking. I met him at the same time he was talking with Jack Mannion [a fellow THG board member]. And so in that conversation I was introduced. I thought who was this guy that Jack was so impressed by? Jack then asked me if I would be interested in being on the board. He briefed me on the organization again and I said of course, I'd love to.
THG: What does your involvement on the board look like?
DC: I mentioned the idea of a residents committee and Andrew asked me to be the chair. The idea for the committee is that we provide residents access to the board and vice versa. We need to consider what full service prevention of homelessness looks like. It doesn't just come with a home, it comes with support and that looks different for each resident. We want to make sure we are open, honest, transparent and consistent with whatever they want and need.
From that, we thought, how do we interact with potential residents? That inspired the idea of the residents dinner. The first was successful, but people were grouped up, sitting with people they knew. Now everyone mingles with each other. That's the purpose of the dinners - breaking the barriers between us and them so there is no us or them. Them being the residents and the stigma of homelessness, us being the board. Breaking that barrier shows everyone we have a lot more in common than we think.
THG: Tell me a story about one of the best times you've had with THG.
DC: The best time I had was when I had to cook. Me and my girlfriend cooked the meal for the residents dinner. I was super nervous. I was thinking, do we have enough food for everybody? Do we have enough options for everybody? Do we even know if there are enough plates and cups and drinks for everybody?
Ultimately, it went over well - everyone was happy and enjoyed the food. So that made my role in the organization more real because I hadn't been able to participate in the actual building process. I've seen the project unfold and develop, but through images. Cooking the dinner was my finest experience.
THG: What are you most excited about for the organization's future?
DC: Baptizing more people, getting more people drinking the Kool-Aid that this is an awesome, awesome endeavor. And that the people involved are people of goodwill. We're trying to support people who have very little and seeing what we can do for them - how can we be a part of that.
Syracuse is the ninth in the nation for segregation, number one in poverty among racial minorities and number five among whites. Those numbers are staggering. So turning communities around and changing the thought process as it relates to a homeless person or previously homeless person, or a veteran means something different to everyone. People get very uneasy when you start talking about PTSD and drug addiction and all those things. So I think having two successful people living in those homes does a lot for the psyche of those considering whether they want a tiny home in their neighborhood or town. We're hoping people see the homes as an opportunity to help be a better human.
THG: With one word, how would you describe THG?
THG: Can you tell me more about that?
DC: I think it's necessary because just factually, just objectively, without THG we know of two men right now who would be homeless. And they may not be alive. Because it can be dangerous living on the street when you're facing layers of trauma and addiction. So it's necessary. THG is doing work that we hope inspires other organizations and municipalities to contribute, but if nothing else, support.
THG: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
DC: I think it's purely American to do what we're doing. You know, the land of second changes, where everybody's redeemable. We all come from somewhere and we all have experienced some layer of trauma in our lives. Not ignoring that but embracing it when we think about the people who we are impacting. I think everyone understands those things abstractly, but once that person is your neighbor, we lose that. And we're hoping people don't.
Thank you for reading!