“It was devastating,” says Richard Tyler, 51, of Biloxi, Miss., a single father of three. “One day you walk out of your house, and the next day everything you own is gone.” But with help from Architecture for Humanity, which arranged for architects to donate designs for seven new houses in Biloxi, and the Arkansas architect Marlon Blackwell, AIA, he now has a brand-new home—one that’s the talk of the town.

We went to meet the architects and see models of the houses at the Salvation Army building. My son, who was about 13 or 14 at the time, was the one to pick the design. It was so modern-looking. It wasn’t just a conventional house—it had a futuristic look to it. It’s a stop-and-stare kind of house.

Marlon Blackwell and I talked a lot. I felt like he had my best interests at heart. He wanted this house done like it was planned. He called it “Porchdog,” I guess because I have a porch at the bottom and a porch in the back, two stories up. I love that porch.

The place I stayed in was half a block away from where they were building my house, and I passed by every day. Every time something new happened, I got excited. They’d put up the kitchen cabinets or they’d put in the bathroom floor, and I could see myself in the house and say, “I’m gonna get me a big-screen TV” and “I’m gonna get a washer-dryer.” Just basic things that I hadn’t had for a while.

My family, my siblings are so happy because it’s a place where they can come back home. I’ve been in this spot virtually all my life. I can’t tell you how bad I wanted to get back home.

You know, I never thought about home design before, but now I look at houses all the time. It’s just a cool thing. And I’ve got this new appreciation for architects—you know what I’m saying? They’ve got a cool job.

Everybody knows my house. I have no trouble telling people where I stay because it’s easy to find. I just say, “Go down Holley Street and it’s the house like you’ve never seen before in your whole life.” As told to Joe Sugarman

To see more images of Porchdog, visit aia.org.