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TINY HOUSES and TINY DINING

Dallas native addresses housing needs of veterans

TINY HOUSES

From Homes to Dining, Tiny is the way of the future for many.

Dallas-based Operation Tiny House is in the forefront of what many consider to be a fairly new concept to Texas, but across the country, as the plight of homelessness and affordable housing becomes more and more challenging, organizations and businesses are coming up with this option.

Enter Valerie Ballard, a native Dallasite who has dedicated a majority of her life to helping veterans.

Friday, October 29, 2021, from 3-8 p.m., there will be an open house for Tiny Dining Ranch at 7225 University Hills Blvd. in Dallas. At the event, Ballard will introduce the Tiny Dining Experience where patrons can rent out the small facilities for very intimate gatherings.

Valerie Ballard
Valerie Ballard

Joined by representatives from Santander Consumer USA Foundation, City and County officials and other non-profit organizations, attendees will learn more about the concept of Tiny Houses and how to become involved.

As a young child, Ballard watched her grandmother who took care of the veterans in the family. Ballard’s father was among those benefiting from his mother’s commitment to serving those who served in the military.

Always resourceful and involved, upon graduation from David W. Carter High School, Ballard became known for being engaged in the community and also, being the youngest publisher of a newspaper, serving the Black community.

Fast forward, she established an organization, North Texas Capacity Builders, to provide transitional and permanent housing, job training and employment opportunities for veterans experiencing homelessness.

Next it was Operation Tiny House.

For about four years she said worked with former Dallas Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Diane Ragsdale and the Inner City Development Corporation (ICDC), revitalizing neighborhoods in the South Dallas area.

The transformation of communities was a sight to see and while doing the work, Ballard said she met veterans whose houses needed renovations, and many were major projects.

“Some of the houses were uninhabitable,” she recalled, adding that Operation Freedom was necessary as it helped veterans bring their homes up to a standard where they could move around their homes more efficiently. “You had some who were unable to leave their homes because they needed ramps or other repairs.”

One veteran’s house, said Ballard, was uninhabitable and actually took about $175,000 to bring up to standard.

TINY HOUSES

“I told my program manager, ‘we could build several tiny houses and serve more veterans for that cost,’” she said. “We actually looked at how many we could serve and we could build more affordable homes.”

The first Tiny House was built by Operation Tiny House, on Spring Street, in collaboration with ICDC.

The nonprofit owns the houses, allowing veterans to live in tiny house communities of 10 houses; ranging on an average from 125 to 170 square feet. The size may sound unbelievable for some but Ballard said Tiny Houses are each designed for one occupant and are not a fit for everyone.

For that honorable veteran who is productive and willing to be employed in the community work program (at a concrete plant); it’s an ideal alternative to homelessness, she said.

TINY DININg

“As long as they are good neighbors, work and keep the community up, our plan is to help them be self-sufficient,” explained Ballard. “We’d like to transition them so we can help other veterans.”

Ballard also has big plans for the future that include partnering with other non-profits to serve other demographics, like teenagers that have aged out of foster care or domestic violence victims.

This year she began teaching Capacity Building workshops so that other nonprofits can learn how to help with the housing crisis.

“Next year I am committed to helping other nonprofits,” said Ballard. “I applaud everyone who helps because until we deal with housing and employment, we will always have homelessness.”

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