Tiny Houses For The Homeless

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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Category : Blog

17 Comments → “Tiny Houses For The Homeless”


  1. Lola

    Aug 20, 2013

    I wish this movement would overtake America. There are so many needy people here. I think America should concentrate on taking care of their own first, then others.

    Reply

  2. deborah

    Aug 20, 2013

    Peoples ignorance never ceases to amaze me Laura, so don’t feel bad. I know exactly who you are and have been following you for quite a while.

    If this country’s government would worry more about it’s citizens than it does about other countries people, just imagine what could be done here!! Of course we know Uncle Sam has ulterior motives in those countries other than being a philanthropist.

    Keep up the good work. I always look forward to your articles. ;-)

    Reply

  3. Jodi

    Aug 20, 2013

    I told my husband having a small house we could do it and we wouldn’t have to worry about rent or utility company’s charging out of this world prices to heat a small place that would be great you are your own owner. I love it and the ideah for the tiny houses for the homeless is a great ideah i posted a bit ago how me & my husband were homeless we had to sleep in our small suv with 2 dogs and a cat yeah that was small and the one dog we have is a large dog so i totally support that ideah..

    Reply

    • Jodi

      Aug 20, 2013

      I also think it wouldn’t be a bad ideah if people with the skill to build them would help people that are low income or want to build one help them build one together i think that would be awesome. As well as company’s that are doing repairs to houses & buildings or some kind of remodeling could donate pieces that the tiny house community could use. as well as small piece’s of insulation that could be used or something. Omg i have so many ideahs.=0]

      Reply

  4. Laura

    Aug 20, 2013

    Hi Laura! (Not Jay)
    I also read you… and know who you are. I too get the occasional Dear Jay… Silly as this sounds I did not put it together… I just assumed the writer had a temporary “duh moment”. Apparently, they are not the only ones.
    This post makes me so very, very, happy! I knew nothing about either of these projects and now I do!
    Thank you
    Laura

    Reply

  5. Elizabeth Treadway

    Aug 21, 2013

    I don’t believe in all the “social justice” being shoved down our throats, but I do believe in the Tiny House movement. I own a tiny house and am working towards living in it permanently. I will either rent my home out or sell it. I like the simple life and not all the exhausting work it takes to keep up with the Jones’.

    Reply

  6. Katie

    Aug 24, 2013

    People always think someone else should help the homeless, build them houses for free, while they sit at their computers and do nothing. I see these comments on all the blogs and Facebook pages, but never see one where somebody without the skills to build offers to fund the project. I admire you for downsizing your life, living within your means and sharing all the enlightenment you’ve received with the rest of us freely (or for the price of a book). You teach by example and make it possible for the rest of us to dream. I think you’ve done your part, and people can get off their butts and do theirs if it means so much to them.
    Is Jay a closet billionaire who can afford to house the masses? I mean he does mention he grew up in a large house that was a pain to clean and decided as an adult he would live more simply, but I never got the whole Scrooge McDuck vibe from him. But hey, I’m all for firing FEMA and paying my taxes directly to someone who might accomplish something.
    I think some people genuinely need the help and generosity of those more fortunate, but I also think they are far outnumbered by people who refuse to take responsibility for their own life situations.
    Thanks for letting me vent, love to Piglet <3

    Reply

    • Jane

      Aug 25, 2013

      I think you’ve gotten way off track with your comment. What Jay’s motives are for building and helping the masses is actually no one’s business. That is like someone cheap ass to try to persuade the rest of the world to NOT do good. You sound very very judgmental of others and and what they are capable of doing and their no how. Who are you to sit here and tell other’s what to think and do for others? My main interest is that this doesn’t become a huge profit for anyone, as the whole idea behind tiny housing to to get off the grid. So, if you have to take out a loan for $40,000 or more, you really aren’t entirely off the grid. Personally, all I can do is look up on my computer and dream, because I am 62 and my body just won’t handle this kind of work anymore. At 30 or 40, I was able to do about anything a man could do and wouldn’t have passed up the opportunity to build a tiny house on my own.

      Reply

    • Bill

      Aug 25, 2013

      Why do the do-gooders seem to believe that the homeless are incapable of using a skill saw, hammer, staple gun screwdriver, tape measure and a blue print to build a tiny house themselves. A charity could loan them the tools and sell them the materials on a payment plan.

      Reply

      • Laura M. LaVoie

        Aug 26, 2013

        If you look at this project in Wisconsin you will see that the project does involve the homeless population who will benefit from their houses. Just like Habitat for Humanity they are required to work on the building.

        Reply

  7. Lauren

    Aug 24, 2013

    I have worked with the public for 40 years and have come to the conclusion that basically people are idiots (myself included, just for the record). Great thing Occupy Madison is doing! Hope more of the same keeps happening around the country.

    Reply

  8. Linda Davis

    Aug 24, 2013

    this country has MANY closed military bases, they need to be rehabbed for people in need of housing and job.

    Reply

  9. Jonathan

    Aug 26, 2013

    Many homeless (my guess is the majority) have other issues that cause the homelessness. Those issues need to be addressed as well or building them the tiny house will fail.

    Reply

  10. claire thomas

    Sep 01, 2013

    I wonder if they are any similar projects I can get involved with north of san diego. I saw so many homeless in oceanside it broke my heart.

    Reply

  11. brendakonkel

    Jan 24, 2014

    Please help us spread the word about our tiny house campaign on indiegogo. http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/10-tiny-homes-for-wis-homeless/x/5935443

    Reply

  12. Patrick christy

    May 08, 2014

    Im homeless with a truck that I live in ! I’m 50 yrs old and ave lots of construction experience . I helped a frend build a tiny house on wheels in Portland OR . I would love to help build these homes for the homeless , if anyone could direct me in the right direction I would be very grateful. God bless America

    pkC

    Reply

  13. Cy Englert

    Aug 24, 2014

    Tiny Houses are prefect housing solutions for singles, young couples, retirees, off-the-grid lovers, and people who have no housing! I have designed a T-shirt and collecting orders. If there is any profit from this effort, I will send it an organization providing housing for the (ex) homeless. I looking for one that is building or supporting Tiny Houses of course!

    For CREW NECK,usually for men, use http://www.customink.com/signup/9ukz2t3d.
    For VNECK, usually for woman, use http://www.customink.com/signup/9ulrh8so

    Reply

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