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