Tiny House Homeless Shelters to Weather The Economic Hurricane

Oprah ran a story about the recession and the increasing number of people finding themselves with nothing but debt and homelessness. Part of the story was about the tent cities popping up all across America. The tent city they visited was actually not that far from my home near Sacramento, which surprised me at first. After about two seconds it made perfect sense because Sacramento has been hit hard by this economic hurricane.

On Thursday my friend Ryan sent me an article on a group of college students at Emily Carr University that built some tiny houses for the homeless as a school project. Ironically (or not) the story was in a little in a little newspaper Ryan bought from a homeless fellow he sees everyday in Boston called Spare Change.

The students built three prototypes and at first local governments weren’t interested in using them. Luckily someone came to their senses and today they are in use by the Vancouver Aboriginal Transformative Justice Society. They are no larger than 64 square feet, provide shelter and a warm place to sleep, and cost less than $1,500 CAD each to build.

For those of us who think about tiny houses every day this doesn’t seem like a new or strange idea. In fact it seems perfectly logical to build tiny houses for the homeless or anyone who needs or wants a low-cost place to live.  In fact it seems so logical to me I wonder why communities across America with growing numbers of tent cities haven’t already begun building them. Don’t worry I have a vague awareness the immense complexities that would impair such a simple solution, but I am hopeful that Oprah’s story will encourage the slow turning bureaucratic cogs to allow such communities.

A community like this could not only provide safe tiny homes to live temporarily but a place to lock up a few belongings while they are away at work or elsewhere. They could also help people regain a sense of pride which would work wonders for helping these folks recapture their lives. The one thing that really stuck with me after watching her show Wednesday night was the despair these folks were experiencing. There’s nothing that impairs progress like the feeling of hopelessness. A tiny house to call their own could be their ticket to a brighter future.

The Oprah show did report that the Sacramento city government was considering legalizing our local tent cities but why not go a step farther and legalize portable/temporary owner-built tiny homes too. Then, god willing, go an extra step and provide a little money for building materials and basic services like water and waste management.

I know the state is broke but at some point don’t we have to admit that many Americans are feeling the brunt of an economic hurricane and deserve immediate disaster relief?

Photo credit to the students of Emily Carr University and CTV. You can also find more info about these tiny houses on Core77, Megaphone, and CTV.




58 thoughts on “Tiny House Homeless Shelters to Weather The Economic Hurricane

  1. Jaye Sunsurn says:

    Open the plans up, like open source coding, or creative commons, and spread them, if you have a step by step this is what you need, an instructable, maybe people can find cheaper ways to do it, and perhaps not look to governmental programs and just BUILD them. If its that cheap, a summer project (here in Vancouver where they were originally designed and built, the summer is the best time as its the dry season) with some scrounged materials or stuff bought piece by piece, people will make them. They will probably improve upon the design.

  2. Michael Janzen says:

    I don’t they have anything for water catchment and with such a small space I’m not sure how much water you could catch. But good idea.

    I don’t think they thought to add a composting toilet but I personally think a true homeless tiny house housing solution must be a complete home with bath and kitchen. I realize this would be more difficult to maintain for a large group but I think the dignity and empowerment a self-contained house would provide would help catapult people back on their feet faster than having to rely on others.

  3. Elizabeth goertz says:

    The problem for homeless communities is infrastructure, Do the designs have water catchment? What about composting toilets?

  4. Gordon Kern says:

    Great idea, now we need to set designated spaces for this type of structure, because there will always be not in my backyard sydrome. The local government also tend to come in a bulldoze stuff like this with little of no warning, so maybe some kind of wheel system that could be employed to allow the tenent to roll the home away from any incoming heavy machinery.
    Someting that would allow one or two individuals to move the home to safety. Can’t buldoze a city that runs away from you.

  5. Elizabeth Brack says:

    My name is Elizabeth Brack, I am an older student, who goes to saddleback community college, am a full time student and a full time Mom.
    Yesterday Thursday June 18, 2009 I saw the Oprah shoe about the tent cities popping up all over the country…And you know what? I was scared but I invited one of my child to watch it with me because I feel like any of us could be living like that very soon. My reason for inviting my child to watch it, is so that we– don’t take anything for granted, and the other reason– is that we can be next. Anyway I have this custom that every morning at 4:30am to 6:30am I get up and pray, and read my Bible. What I wanted to share… Is that this morning something was different, I did my usual prayer but then while I was reading my Bible I couln’t concentrate I just kep getting the Images from that lady with her two kids, who were traveling from one homeless shelter to another, and that her little boy was going to have a birtday, and when the reporter ask him what he wanted for his birthday his answer was very simple, he just wanted a cake and some love. She was one of the family in that story that Lisa Ling talked about on the Operah show. Then the other Images that just didnt stop– Was the people them from the tent city, it was so strong it was like some one kept telling me… to do something about it so this morning during my study time I dicided to do some research on how to build straw bail houses. And while I was doing that. I came up on to this web site. and I just wanted to say that I think this is a great Idea and I hope the government will help you guys with this great project. but I also think that people would feel more dignifyed if you were to include them by teaching them how to help build their own little home with their own hands I know they would feel so much pride when it gets finish and probably even take better care of them because of that ownership. Instead of taking a hand out. I myself would like to know how can I help? in something so great, and so wonderfull. I think these little houses are great in time like these becaue, I don’t think anybody in these situation need luxeries. Just the basic essencial a bedroom a bathroom and a kitchen and been out of the element and some privacy and dignity, untill they can get their feet back on the ground.

    Elizabeth Brack.

    • Michael Janzen says:

      Elizabeth… thanks for that comment. I’ve been working on an idea/article for a while that suggests an idea I think you just proved should work to help people back on their feet. It is sad to hear in the news that homeless shelters are being closed due to funding. I hope more people begin to speak out and help our leaders wake up and realize that we need our tax dollars to fund these kinds of projects.

      • Bryan says:

        These homes are great and I wish there were more photos of the inside.

        Kudos to Elizabeth Brackk and Becky Blanton for the posts they shared.

        Anyway, the two cents I wanted to offer is that, if water was offered to be run to these tiny homes, a great container garden idea is to run guttering back and forth across the sides of the homes, each time at a slight angle downward. You connect a water source into the top gutter, let it flow downward as it moves to the other end, then through a hose or downspout down to the next level of guttering, etc. This could be done on multiple sides of the home.

        Of course, a community garden works well, too, but this allows for people to have their own personal garden without taking up more footprint other than to walk around the home and work.

  6. Andrew Cady says:

    Clearly this project is full to the brim with good intentions, but unfortunately it has failed to properly take into account the power situation. The homeless do not have the legal right even to pitch tents, so that investing even just $1.5k in a structure that cannot be moved is a foolish risk for them to take (or for anyone to take on their behalf).

    Remember, to be homeless is to be an outlaw: to be committing a crime merely by existing. You are in constant danger of the police strolling by and forcing you to “move along.” Thus, the tiny home does not make sense.

    • Scott Sorensen says:

      True, the police will move you along. I’ve lived in a tent for 5 years now, and for the first 3 I just carried everything. Now I’m camped on a friend’s property and I don’t have to worry about the cops. I’ve given it a lot of thought, and it seems that a white van could be outfitted with an RV shower, and one could move this van around without attracting too much attention. It IS a sad situation when they make you an outlaw because someone else took your house and tossed you to the sidewalk. But that’s what the Occupy movement is all about, right? We’re tired of the B.S.

    • Debilyn says:

      I agree! It’s all moot when there is no legal place to put them!
      Even if someone donated a piece of property, there can be only one home per property.

      Seems like more of a campground or mobile home type set up would be nice to legalize. Have one group building for bathrooms, laundry and a communal kitchen etc.

      Seems like a waste of time as we all know the creepy, heartless powers that be will run them off and destroy their homes.
      I rent a little piece of property that has water and power to a family living in an rv. It’s illegal! Its my 5 acre country home and it is tidy!
      During the depression they had to compromise so much to help each other have a home.
      I hate how people with money and power are so evil….

    • Jerry says:

      Yeah! Whadaya think this is? A free country? (i’m being sarcastic by the way.) The same thought process must have been used against the indians. “You are a criminal for existing, and not being able to pay tribute to the great God Greed!” (still sarcastic. Maby I’m missing something, but just how I feel.

  7. Kenneth Shaw says:

    I’ve been thinking about something along these lines just a little more elaborate though. The possibilities of 48×40’s are endless. Even to CABO specs. I have an engineering background plus I’m cheap as hell. I’m dreasming of a pallet palace. The designs are working in my head and look forward to putting them to paper. Thanks for thinking along these lines.

  8. Patrice says:

    Great idea! Those smart students at Emily Carr University deserved appreciation from the government. They have concern for the homeless families.

    • Becky Blanton says:

      I like the porch. I think it’s necessary more than a toilet space. Why? Because part of the problem with being homeless is you’re isolated. Porches give you a place to sit, to watch the world go by, even to have a small potted plant. Put up a tiny railing and hang a planter off of it and you have a container garden, a place to grow tomatoes, herbs or flowers. Better yet, hang several planters on the side and grown more stuff. I’ve been homeless. There’s a difference between a shelter and a home. The porches make these “homes.” I lived in 64 square feet with a Rottweiler and a cat. I had a bucket for a toilet. it’s entirely possible to design the inside of these to hold an RV sized composting toilet or even equip them for standard septic.

      As far as a “Tent city,” why not have a “Tiny home” community like a campground, charge $100 a month rent and that includes water, power and a central kitchen. I guarantee you that people can find $100 or get sponsored for that…and that if they cry “I don’t have money,” you’ll see them equipping these with space heaters, televisions, computers, lamps and all kinds of stuff….

      A lot of people don’t want to live in much more than 64 or 100 square feet. In 100 square feet, or even in these, it’s possible to have a shower/toilet/sink/bed/desk and place to sit.

  9. michaeljanzen says:

    Good point about the little porch. It's a good example of when design aesthetic trumps practical design. The same amount of building material could have been used to enclose the space. A tiny awning could provide shelter at the door.

    I don't however want to knock the creativity and generosity of these students. But your point is a good design critique.

  10. renee says:

    There was a Family Circle magazine article back in the late 70’s that had plans for a 10 x 10 ft vacation cabin that would sleep 4 and used no lumber larger than a 4 x 8 ft sheet of plywood. I used to have the plans. Also, I built a 4 x 8 ft playhouse for my son and his friends out of pallets when he was 7 years old. He and half a dozen boys ages 3 to 14 couldn’t destroy it in a year and I used no special wood or materials, just the free lumber from pallets and leftover white exterior latex paint for the outside, roof and all.

  11. Mo says:

    In Seattle we have a tent city (“Nicklesville” – after the Mayor) that shuffled from location to location – Churches seem to be the most welcoming and socially acceptable places to locate them. I would agree the little shelters would improve the plight of the homeless however it may also be viewed as a permanent solution. As unsavory as living in a tent would be it is clear evidence that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. I fear creating these little shelters would end up being the modern version of the “slums” or “projects” and accepted as the solution to the problem.

    It would however be nice if these buildings (or a variation of them) would be allowed to be constructed and used on private properties for individuals with family or friends who have fallen into difficult times. Having them less concentrated would help to resolve some of the logistical issues of toilets, showers, trash, water supply, laundry and other day to living needs.

    On another note this housing crisis is creating a use for the McMansions… I’ve noticed families moving together – multiple generations and sometimes unrelated – and sharing expenses. It seems more palatable to some than moving into a smaller home which still seem to be in high demand around here.

  12. Robert says:

    While this “sounds” like a great idea, the reality is that with a little more “thinking outside the box”(or maybe it should be “in the box?”) It is quite easy to come up with a solution that is cheaper, provides a few more square feet and is many many times sturdier.

    A bit of searching the web indicated that there are roughly 700,000 shipping containers just sitting around in Americas ports. The Chinese build them for about 1,200 dollars each(this was a couple years ago, so could be a bit higher now) So lets say some do good group can’t get the Government to hand over lot’s of them(probably can since they really have no use now) Buy them from the Government for 1,500 dollars eash.These containers are 8FT X 40FT. That’s 320 SQ.FT. Put dividing walls in and you can make 4 apartments of 80 SQ.FT each for 325 dollars plus the cost of materials for the dividing walls. With a bit of scrounging and looking for deals at job sites and places like habitat for humanity stores it shouldn’t be that hard to build the dividing walls for 25 dollars per apartment( You only need 3 walls to make 4 apartments, so 100 dollars to make 3 walls. Now you have exactly 400 dollars invested in each apartments floor, ceiling, and main walls). Since these things are so strong no supporting frame work(and its increased cost) is needed. On the inside simply weld 4 “L” brackets that stick oto allow for insulation) vertically every 2 feet on the metal walls. Then you drill a hole near the end of the bracket(to screw a 2X2 onto it(to mount thin sheetrock, or to save money on mudding and painting maybe a thin synthetic material). Then simply cut holes for 1 door and a round portal window near the door and 1 regular window on the back. Then do the same thing with the brackets(maybe 6 inches long) on the ceiling, add insulation and panels.

    These things come with hardwood floors well over an inch thick so all you need to is sand it down and add polyurethane sealer. Floor insulation is optional in most climates if you place the container on an old fashioned sand and gravel foundation so wind doesn’t get under it. If the location gets extremely cold in winter then a shallow pit can be dug in the sand and gravel foundation and insulation can be placed directly on the ground(with a good vapor barrier placed between the ground and insulation) and the container sat right on top.

    If building it the same internally as the design here you should be able to save 200-300 per apartment and they are much much stronger. You can easily pick them up and move them on a truck. For small lots you can also stack these things up to about 10 high with no additional support(not counting wind loads, but the wind can be overcome for “free” by simply making another stack of containers and bolting/welding them in a “T” pattern) and a simple set of stairs going up the front to each door. You can also, for probably the same money per unit as these units make just 3 apartments per container and give these people 106 square feet of space. Plenty of room for a toilet and shower(and some much needed storage space) without cramping everything else.

    Of course these costs are assuming an origination (such as the for mentioned Habitat for Humanity) can’t work it out with the Government to get them for free. I think that would be fairly easy to be honest. In that case the cost foes WAY down. The best thing about these is that if they are loosely attached to the ground(just enough to make sure they don’t flip over) then they are quite literally earthquake proof(meaning they won’t collapse on you, even though with the “big one” the interior materials will be quite damaged). And if mounted with plenty of concrete they are hurricane proof and with a bit of roof reinforcement, pretty close to tornado proof. Or at the very least a whole lot closer than these these homes could ever hope to be. Heck with a little proper welding, sealing and a good quality sealed door and windows these could be placed in flood zones and as long as the door or window wasn’t opened would remain dry even if flooded almost to the roof. Of course the cost of those doors and windows would exceed the total cost of the apartments itself. Figuring that and the fact that a group of 20 or so people could make this thing at least livable(meaning someone could at least have an interior place to sleep) There’s really no reason to the extremes to make it flood proof. Also due to the extreme strength of these containers no one would really be able to destroy it. Worst they could do is tear up the things added to it. Even if totally ruined to live in it would be an easy and cheap option to just rip out the complete interior and build it again cheaper than the first time(no shipping charges on rebuilding)

    So basically for a few hundred dollars less than the homes featured here you could…
    !.) Build a slightly bigger home that is much stronger
    2.)provide 2,800,000+ homes while recycling an insane amount of steel w/o having to harm the environment by cutting or crushing the steel and then remelting it.
    3.) If done properly, comfortably provide bed space for 3 people per apartment(8,400,000). Or if a little extra was spent 4 people per apartment( 11,200,000 people).

    The cheapest way to find a place to put them depend on the situation. Such as California is having trouble funding their state parks at this time. It would be easy to take an out of the way part of just a few parks and section it off. I know such a move would outrage many people who think the parks should not be touched for any reason but even though the state has said they will not close any parks they are going to scale back the hours of operation and services. By providing a small area of the park these homeless people could be tapped to help maintain these parks. In exchange for a free place to live they would have to help build them. If they have no job then 8 hours a day. If they do work then maybe 8 hours on one of their days off and 4 hours on any other days off. After they are built, a little training(mowing grass, weeding, cleaning toilets and mopping floors etc. doesn’t take much training) and they could each work say 5 hours per week in the park. 80% of the money the state saves using this free labor could be put into providing services for the community(water, sewer,electricity, trash, recycling, playground for the kids, outdoor”community” area, and a mandatory to use garden area . For the ones not working at all, working at the park and not getting paid would generate enough savings that the state could easily afford to provide them with free community college(still only using 80% of the money saved).

    So the homeless get a nice home, even if it is a bit small. They also get an environment that is conducive for forming a “community” and not just a bunch of people “on their own” in the same area. Having them in the state parks gets them out of the city where the homeless face problems such as crime against them simply for the fact that they are “on the street”.
    After they graduate from the community college(usually 2 years or less) they can start looking work and after they find it can easily save money(if they take advantage of this system it should be mandatory and supervised by a non state entity. Maybe the Salvation Army or United way. This way the people who are helping pay for this(tax payers and volunteers alike) Can be sure that they are “helping” someone that wants help getting back on their feet and not wasting their money on someone that wants a handout. And after they save up enough money from working the non-profit supervising their saving program can help them locate a new home/apartment and get all utilities turned on and them moved in and furnishings bought. I see no reason that since they aren’t being charged money for anything that they can’t be on their feet, and I mean really standing on their own two feet and not just barely able to make it after 3 -3.5 years. 3.5 years would give them a month to get moved in and trained for the park job, then 1 month to get enrolled in college and graduated 2 years later and 2 months to find a job and a month. This would give them roughly 8 months income. Let them have 2 months worth over the time they are working to buy things like clothes and work related things and a bit for spending on kids. I have no problem with adults doing without things even if their current financial situation is not their fault, after all they couldn’t buy it when they had no job so a few more months won’t kill them. But children, especially young children, really have no real grasp of these sorts of things and a few dollars spent on them will go a looong way to making them feel better(and as a single father of 2 when my income was much lower than now and i received no child support, i once went almost 4 years with the same TWO pair of non work related pants and didn’t replace my single pair of shoes until they literally had holes in them just so my kids could have things. So i propose no decrease in any welfare benefits for the 3.5 years they are in the state park community so they can save almost everything they make. This time line lets them have gives them 6 months of saved income to pay all expenses associated with moving into a new place. they should be able to do it AND buy a bit of needed furniture(mostly used and given from charities) and still leave them 1-3 months of reserve in the bank for emergencies.

    If we REALLY wanted to get serious about getting these people on their feet then it wouldn’t be too hard for the government to step in and force the lending institutions to “sell” these people homes for 2 months of their saved income as a down payment and 25% of their income as the monthly payment(25% was the recommended(by the banks) max until 20 or so years ago. Then it started creeping up until it reached the current recommended max of 1/3rd. Many consider this increase to 1/3rd max to be a big part of the current housing problems(so let’s get back to what it used to be). Let’s not worry about how long it takes to pay it off either. A bank getting 60% of the original house payment is still 60% better off on that house than they are getting no payments at all and since OUR money was used to save many of their butts, they can help repay the debt they owe us. Since they loaned out this money so poorly simply for profit I also consider forcing them to drop the interest rates on the houses they “sell” to the people from the state park community to 1% to further help them(I’m not asking that the banks lose money in this deal, and 1% is plenty to cover all their expenses associated with keeping up with the paperwork).

    Remember that just giving these people a small cheap place to live does very little to “help” them. If all you want to do is get them out of the rain then a big tent is just fine. If we aren’t going to really help them get back on their own two feet then why bother spending all the money on a wood or metal house to help them feel better about themselves? Them having warm fuzzies in their tummy won’t really do anything to make them “productive” tax paying citizens who contribute to the societal well being instead of being a permanent drain on our resources. Far better to spend 20 years or more worth of taxpayer money in 3-4 years and get them off the “system” and back to work and contributing to that system to help others than it is to keep paying a lower amount per year and NEVER stop paying for their upkeep.

    Wow this “quick” comment almost turned into a novel. Sorry about making it so long winded, but once I started thinking about it, the ideas and plans just started flowing.

    Anyway, I hope everyone finds my ideas and plans informative and useful. Not to mention refreshing. If anyone wished to talk to me further about my ideas just post here asking for my email and leave yours and I will contact you.

    Robert Pruitt

    • Terri says:

      You had me until you wanted them to work 8 hours a day for the privilege of living in a box. We tried this before. We brought people from a different country and made them work for a place to stay. It was called slavery.

      Now here’s a question for you. How many hours a day do you work? Do you get more than a box to live in for your labor?

      • Lisa says:

        I do not like this comment because I live in a similar homeless situation. I’m not working to live in a “box.” I’m working to rebuild my life. There is more, much more, to working out this problem than where I get to “live.” I get to think, I get to choose, I get to save my money. I am SURE you have never been homeless, much less a slave. If you ever were, you learned nothing. There are many, many who go through this “system” and think exactly as you do. And you know what? They, and you, are right. Work for a bigger house. Still a slave. Lightbulb!

      • Kayla says:

        It is not called Slavery, It is called a safe alternative to living out in the open on the streets, A way to work yourself into a life where you don’t need handouts anymore. Just because they have to work for a place to live does not mean that they are being enslaved. it means that they are having to pay back some of the burden that they are causing by needing their food to be handed to them by taxpayers, By needing us to support them financially. There is no reason whatsoever, barring disabilities, that a homeless person when given the option for a place to stay and a real plan for a productive future should not be willing to work for it. This is a good plan, There used to be work camps like this back in the great depression though. I don’t know how well they worked back then versus how well they would work now, But I can definitely see government greed and carelessness stopping this from ever becoming a reality. Awesome ideas though.

    • Bernie Null says:

      Dear Robert Pruitt, I love your post. Now what more can we do? While I do not agree 100% with your post I feel that you are on the right track. I too am a single Dad and put my faith into the wrong people and almost ended up homeless myself 4 weeks ago.

      I do not totally agree with using parks as a location but I am thinking there must be an area in most communities where something like what you describe can be done.

      I think that churches and local governments could do a lot to make a community for people and if we could get the Feds to realize the shortcomings of their system (food stamps, child support, etc…) we could really do some good.

      The current system is awful. I had medical and as soon as I went to work I lost it!

      My daughter still had it but I am S.O.L.!

      So we find space and build a little community that allows people to “work off” their home and help them get back on their feet, and then guide them to a better life.

      I would lover to talk to you further about your idea.

      Please email me: bernienull AT Gmail DOT com


    • Norabora says:

      I think what you proposed is interesting. The only caveat I see is that some (or most, before the downturn in the economy) of the homeless are people with mental/physical (mostly mental) issues.
      So along with what you would require of the users of the apartments there would be a great need for social workers that could help those that need it. Getting SSI/SSDI is no easy task and this is a group of people most in need of it. Helping them get an income as well as a place to live would go a long way to their healing.
      Another issue re. water/waste/utilities is a possibably having a bath house and a gathering place for residents for communal activities such as meals cooked by residents, meetings about rules and responsibilities, entertainment.
      Just some ideas…

  13. Ivory says:

    Response to Robert Pruitt,

    Wow! Lots of good building ideas and social ideas.
    I enjoyed reading it! Unfortunatley, there are numerous homeless people that are not able to perform at a college level (ie mentally ill, elderly, physically ill and or handicapped, etc)There would also be the challenge of transportation from the outlying park areas to the location of the community college to attend classes…..but I definatley agree, to really help someone who is homeless, there has to be more than just a roof over their heads.

  14. dnee says:

    Good idea. This can help the homeless. they do not need to spend a lot of money to be able to have a house. This design can also save space.

  15. Angela says:

    the last quarter of 2009 seems promising as we have seen lots of signs of econic recovery against the massive economic recession. i hope that in 2010 all our economies would be back on track. recession really sucks.

  16. Jean From NY says:

    Hi Robert,

    I can see that your posting dates 2009, before the Haiti earthquake.
    This is the cheapest quake proof housing idea I have envisioned, so far.
    Haiti could be a test case for this type of housing.
    It was tried in Haiti before the quake, but was not followed through.
    Haiti is a tropical country with a very hot sun. Climate modification would be necessary, because any metal structure like a trailer exposed to the tropical sun would become an oven. However, it would be hurricane proof and thatwould be a plus for Haiti.

    • Myeka says:

      The heat generated from the shipping containers used in Haiti could be harnessed into electricity to supply lights, cooling, computers, hot water, etc. i really like this idea.

    • Roger Malone says:

      Dig a trench and bury the shipping container shelter half underground and leave the other half sticking about ground level, then use the backfill material to cover the shelter. That will certainly help to keep any occupants cool inside from the suns rays.

  17. Nicole says:

    I like small homes. And, I like these homes. I don’t think, for a moment, that they are a good solution to most cases of homelessness, though. It is a solution to temporary shelter needs, in cases of disaster, and a great thing for people to choose on their own free will- I would love to buy some remote property and construct one of these to live in as I build a cob home. But that is because I think small green buildings are awesome.

    The homelessness need integrated into society. By putting them in separate, very small (even by small home standards), very stand outish homes with few “frills” (bathrooms, running water, etc) you are in effect segregating them. Let’s keep in mind that homelessness often goes hand in hand with disabilities- severe mental illness, intellectual disability, etc are common. These are people who NEED basic “frills”.

    SRO buildings and CILA apartments integrated into neighborhoods are a more common sense, and dignity providing, approach to homelessness. You can take a foreclosed “mcmansion” and convert it into apartments, rent half to the community and use the other half to provide long term shelter. Very green, very small, and very smart. Not to mention, dignity providing.

  18. Mark B says:

    This is a nice design. I disagree about the porch being frivolous. Even in a temporary community such as a tent city, there has to be public interaction and access to outside space. A porch gives children a place to play, people a place to sit where they don’t feel cooped up and a way for the neighbors to keep an eye out for each other. These students are to be commended for a solution that is practical and includes people in the equation.

  19. Sally says:

    Why not do a trial where within an area on a busline with open space, you build a dozen tiny houses anchored to the ground properly(otherwise they could blow over). Have a common cooking/bathroom facility in the center. Dorm fridges in each persons dwelling or else make lockable food storage/refrigeration so no one pillages in the common area.
    Problems I can see with the design are the windows are too easy to break into and they need a way to tie them down for storm protection.

  20. Carol says:

    I would hope someone out there would donate some land for this great idea of little homes for the homeless. One other idea is to have a community shower,and bathroom facilities, add some donated wash tubs for laundry, clothes lines as well, and the cost would be affordable,,,,God bless you all for being so thoughtful to help those less fortunate…carol

    • Michael Janzen says:

      I suspect the more we put ideas out there like this the more likely philanthropists might come out of the woodwork and help.

  21. di says:

    Imagine if society were trusting and generous – to offer temporary shelter and food to the homeless – in exchange for housework and yardwork. Camping out in someone’s garage or shed could offer nearby access to a bathroom and kitchen.

  22. Kathryn Shoemaker says:

    Almost 20 years ago, Jamica was devestated by an hurricane sp. As I watched mothers feeding their children mud, I thought how can anyone with a heart not help. I partnered with another women for a year and tithed my money for one house.
    I also like Kiva.org for helping others for as little as $25. If not me who will help others? I live under the poverty level myself.

  23. Pam says:

    The idea of moving people into the parks is horrifying to me. You have all sorts of urban spaces already which are empty such as strip malls in every town I have ever seen. Reclaim those spaces before you go looking to savage the little remaining forest. It also smacks of moving people out of sight (Not im MY back yard) and has no redeeming virtues at all imo.

    The idea of these things being made portable is a wonderful one..then when things get better for a family they can take their house with them when they move out of the “tent” city area. I understand in Vancouver, some people are buying garages and making tiny homes out of them. Once a family had at least the basics of a job or income, it might be possible slowly to rent or buy part of a lot and put their house there until they gradually got on their feet again.

    Also, not sure about the value of 4 sq feet more vs some sense of “house”. It’s nice to see that some gesture was made toward more than the absolute basics which might help make a box feel like more than a box. Porches are wonderful for promoting interaction with neighbors while still preserving your own space. Depression and feelings of isolation while surrounded by people is a problem for people down on their luck, and I think the small porch area is a wonderful psychological idea which has far more value than the 4 sq feet of space could otherwise have, given that the basics of shelter are provided inside.

  24. Robert Hennecke says:

    I’ve been thinking about a micro housing idea based on something that can be towed by a bicycle. Homeless people are very mobile and have very little in the way of belongings.

  25. Don J says:

    Here is a tiny house design, just under 100 square feet. Based on a traditional design with a modern touch, this cost $700 retail. It withstood sub-zero temps, record sustained winds (over 60 mph) and a foot of snow on the roof during the 2011 blizzard.


  26. di says:

    Omit the table and chair – just lower the bed and sit on it.
    Eat with a plate in your lap.
    Try a roll-up, cushioned mat and sleeping bag.

    Cardboard boxes and plastic bags are free at most stores.
    Store wardrobe and dry goods in pull-out cardboard boxes under the bed.
    Some plastic bags are large enough to use as a backpack.
    Store belongings in plastic bags on nails.
    Hang clothes or a coat on a nail.

    With dietary changes, a kitchen may not be needed.
    Use a portable, collapsible cooler for daily perishables.
    Use a portable, collapsible water jug and drink only water.

    Look for ready-to-eat grocery items.
    Use water with dry cereal, try cold instant coffee, etc.
    Make a cold sandwich for lunch.
    Eat a hot meal at a restaurant every now and then.
    Breakfast is a cheap, nutritious meal and sometimes served throughout the day.

    Each unit could have a set of instructions – in how to live without a kitchen, where to find free food or a cheap meal, where to safely dumpster dive, etc. – as well as an online site that could be accessed at a library.

    These would be great in National Parks across the country. Most campgrounds provide bathroom facilities. Are there any parks that offer year-round camping? Could this be a National Park Project?

    • cb says:

      A nice space-saver is like what is found in rv’s; the table drops down and rests on the edge of the 2 seats to make the bed, spreading the cushions out over them. The bed doesn’t have to be high, or raised/lowered; storage space could be made under the 2 chairs/bed ends, and the space above table used as shelf or cabinet space. A plain electric hotplate and a coffee maker are both cheap, cold meals/coffee shouldn’t be necessary, even if it’s just an extension cord run through a wall to a power strip.

    • ImReady says:

      HAHA, everything you say is a great idea, until you suggest to suggest “save dumpste diving”…..now, that’s going a little too far!!!

  27. Joe Haley says:

    What do they do with those when the see people being homeless by sleeping in the streets? I`m really getting close to be homeless and my parents are thinking about kicking me out of their house where i don`t have a job. Does the state of Vermont help with the state of New Hampshire by giving them those mini houses for the people to stay in, when they have no place to live?

  28. Chuckie says:

    The problem is zoning and building codes. We’ve decided in this country that if your house doesn’t meet certain specifications, then you are not allowed to live in a house at all. Building a serviceable structure in which to live is not out-of-the-box thinking or in any way laudable. People used to do this regularly until the Government came along to help.

    All cities have minimim lot sizes, minimum set-backs, maximum housing density, building codes which specify every aspect of the construction from the foundation on up.

    None of these structures meet those codes or even come close. They are fine structures, but you can’t build them and live in them.

    As pointed out above, the land needs to exist with services. A man can reasonably live without electricity. Even running water can be skipped if a source is nearby. You can have a cistern on the roof and fill it with buckets for enough running water to survive in some comfort.

    The problem is waste. Without sewer infrastructure, these are untenable, and sewer cannot be attached within budget.

    Further, they make no sense without significant density. An acre of these things placed a few feet apart would allow housing for a lot of people, but NOBODY wants that in their neighborhood and for good reason. While not all the people who would be attracted to this housing are criminals or otherwise societal problems, a disproportionate number would be. They would be magnets for crime, disturbance of the peace, etc. You would need several police on duty at all times which vastly increases the societal cost.

    If you are only addressing the problem of protection from the elements, this is simple. If you think about humans actually living there, it immediately becomes more complicated.

    Any man who has ever done any real work with his hands can do a better, cheaper design than a bunch of pompous junior college students. They solved the easy problem and ignored the difficult problem.

    • Michael Janzen says:

      >”They are fine structures, but you can’t build them and live in them.”

      I think this is a big step above tent cities – and could help people make the move into more permanent housing.

      >”The problem is waste. Without sewer infrastructure, these are untenable, and sewer cannot be attached within budget.”

      Check into the Humanure Handbook and the Lovable Loo. Probably not a legal option everywhere but you’d be surprised. For disaster situations without government assistance this might be the most effective and safe solution.

      >”but NOBODY wants that in their neighborhood and for good reason”

      Homelessness is a real problem. It’s in all our backyards. We must deal with it and together find solutions.

      >”Any man who has ever done any real work with his hands can do a better, cheaper design than a bunch of pompous junior college students. They solved the easy problem and ignored the difficult problem.”

      Ripping on people is not constructive.

  29. Mimi Idlewild says:

    To take care of the infrastructure, why not build these villages near highway rest stops? They have bathrooms and water designed for mass use; green park areas for movement and exercise; and some already have showers.

  30. terri says:

    This is all fine and dandy if all the homeless were just down and out family people, but lets face it most of the homeless are the mentaly ill, the drug addicted, criminals on the run or just down rite lazy ngs. I’m not saying all but most and to congregate these kinds of people all in one area,is just asking for new problems.I as a drug addict know this all to well it just leads to more problems for the area that will hold these people and yes sewer water garbage laundry and of course policing. Policing wouldnt be an option. We are all unhappy with the way our societies have become more like nazi run Germany, but untill a true solution has been found it will have to do. Oh sure we all think if it was done my way or even some groups think our way, who realy knows. One thing 4 sure is we need to start looking after our mentaly ill,SOMEWHAT legalizing the drugs that are making the gangsters rich and our governments poorer. Ive never been there but Ampsterdam might have something
    Another thing is why is it just the few government officials voting on new laws when we are a democracy any new law ANY NEW LAW should be voted on by the people. Just because we vote in a party dosent mean we whole heartedly agree with them give us a true democrcy,let us vote and those who just sit at home and bitch will learn to get off the couch and those who dont oh well I know the last bit is off the beaten path but homelessness the displacement of the mentaly and chemicaly ill,spending more on things like housing child molesters[when its a proven fact that there is NO cure] than we do on our elders and phyically chalenged is what its realy all about,because most people who were once at the top in a million dollar house may never again live in a million dollar house but they usually bounce back. ITS the other part of society that would end up in most of these 10×10 citys that need to be delt with. And another thing sure women get pregnant it happens she should be given the resources 4 that child to play sports and normal activitys,or lets say the child should be given the resources, but accidents dont happen 3 4 5 times mabey if these people had their cheques deducted from 4 having more babies they cant afford, it would slow down all these people who think having more babies on welfare is a bigger check an accident is once then u take care of the problem 2 3 4 times is just another cycle that shouldnt be aloud to come full circle.

  31. Michael Haley says:

    They have to make more of them, because there are most homeless people in the U.S. And the state of New Hampshire should really ask the state of Vermont to send those to New Hampshire and put six or more small houses in the town of Newmarket, N.H.

    • sandy_beebe@yahoo.com says:

      2 more things I wanted to point out ..is that yes a lot of people who are homeless are probably homeless because they are dangerous or have serious problems alcoholics ,serious drug addicts ,mentally ill people ,or just plain crazy but,not all of them . Lately in the last few years More and more honest family types have lost their homes sometimes single women and men cant find work to even rent an apartment Housing is very expensive even a room for one night can be very expensive in a hotel .I think the best solution would be to set up and even call such a small house neighborhood a “CAMP “,and provide shared plumbing shared water access,group house kitchen etc etc ..As long as it was a CAMP ,set up like a camp I do not see why people could not stay here .


  32. sandy_beebe@yahoo.com says:

    I think we should set up neighborhoods maybe in parks or on public land if need be or church parking lots .Perhaps even .provide a community house for bath rooms ,shower, kitchen access ..mail box phone etc…maybe shared cooking washer etc..Give these people an opportunity to get on their feet
    Or Make the neighbor hoods camp like where there’s a place to cook out and a public bath house shower …phone etc..

  33. sandy_beebe@yahoo.com says:

    Perhaps it would be a wise idea to set such a temporary housing neighborhood or camp up in an area where people could use existing facilities(A church perhaps )oe you could always rent a jonny and a portable shower as well even portable sinks are on the market ..But I think as long as you have one facility with utilities intended to serve those with out utilities ,as it is set up in a camp site people can camp out there

  34. Debbie Kesley says:

    I just watched the movie Hiding In Plain Sight and cried many tears as I realized that without the love of a few friends I would have also been living out of my car. I raised my kids, homeschooled them as a stay at home mom for 23 years before I began my journey on my own due to being abandoned in my marriage at the beginning of the downward economy spiral in one of the worst hit areas in the country.

    If I had a dream come true it would be providing low income housing for those of us who got “caught in the system” between government welfare and the life we had known.

    Many of us are intelligent, honest, hard working people who just need a hand up ……not a hand out ………on the place from where we were trapped in our circumstances to…….. the better place of where we are going!

  35. Joy says:

    I’m currently homeless due to the economic situation; I work a full-time job, but for reasons I won’t go into, housing is currently out of the question. This will change at the end of September, thankfully, but in the meantime, I’m living in my car. I work in a place that provides employees with a large locker room for women, and one for men, and they have showers in them–I can stay clean. This is not an ideal situation, though, and one of these tiny abodes would be most welcome. I don’t need much space, but I will fight tooth and nail to have my computer set up and running; it’s how I attend my Sabbath services, and it’s how I stay connected with the brethren of my faith and Church. I live too far from any of them to be able to see them more than four times a year, so not having a computer is out of the question. The issue is the extremely expensive housing where I live; this is one of the most popular tourist resorts in the country, and since it achieved that rating about 20 years ago, housing costs have soared. It’s also where I was born and raised, though I have no family here any longer. Still, one does not just up and leave a job one has had for 15 years, not in this economic mess. I would be very happy to have the most basic, properly built, able-to-lock-the-door little shelter of my own; I have no animals, nor ever will again, so there’s no barrier there. Again, the barrier is the cost of rent, plus where I live the winters are very cold, very hard, and very long–heating costs are astronomical, so a tiny shelter would be great as it would take very little to heat it. I once owned a great many things, but now am down to virtually nothing but some treasured books, and my computer. I have nothing else of technology–no “i” this, or Wii, or anything else–so my computer is not going anywhere that I am not. I just need a safe, lockable, able to heat and/or cool little place to call home for as long as it takes to get back on my feet.

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