There is a phenomenon in the Tiny House community. Every casual reader seems to think that every tiny house blogger is Jay Shafer himself. I have received countless emails and Facebook messages that start out addressed, “Dear Jay.”

One such message that stuck with me was an individual who expressed a lot of anger that “I” wasn’t doing enough to help people who have been displaced through natural disasters like hurricanes or tornadoes. I felt obligated to write back to her and explain that I was not who she thought I was and that I thought her idea was a good one and hoped someone with the means to offer the service would consider it.

It looks like the Occupy Madison organization has begun constructing tiny houses for the city’s homeless population. It is modeled after a similar project in Portland, Oregon that I don’t believe we have heard nearly enough about.

OM Build is operating on a “sweat-equity” model like Habitat for Humanity where owners must work to build their housing. Steve Burns, a Madison College math instructor who has long supported Occupy Madison, is teaching members of the group basic carpentry skills as they put in the required 300 hours of work at the workshop.

You can read more about the project here.

It currently appears that the project is subject to a city ordinance that indicates a tiny house on wheels needs to be moved every 48 hours. Organizers believe this will be temporary as they have had several churches express an interest in the project to allow the new tiny homeowners to stay on their property. They also hope that they are able to purchase some land to eventually place the tiny homes and establish a village.

Another eco-village in Olympia Washington, called Quixote Village, was able to earn grant money for their project and even worked with the local government to change ordinances to make the village possible.

It is refreshing to see the tiny house movement used for social justice. I applaud Occupy Madison as well as the communities in Portland and Olympia for working on the issue of homelessness in our country and using tiny homes to make something happen. I hope that more people taken an opportunity to use their skills to help others.


Laura is a contributing writer for Tiny House Listings and she walks the walk. She lives in a 120 square foot cabin in Asheville, NC that she and her partner Matt built themselves. You can learn more about Laura and Matt at their website 120squarefeet.com.

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  1. looking for help with this idea for my community in Phoenix Arizona.

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