Tiny Homes for the Homeless

Brian Reynold's Photo for Kloehn

Photo Credit: Brian Reynolds

There is an estimated 1,750,000 people with no place to live as of June of 2013 in the U.S. Think of how their lives would change if they had a little house to come home to every night—a place of shelter from the weather, protection from thugs on the street, and some place they could call their own. This is the dream of artist-architect Gregory Kloehn.  He builds little tiny homes for the homeless. Featured on Rachel Ray, Inside Edition and Huffinton Post, Kloehn got the idea from his own challenge to renovate a dumpster to live in. The adorable dumpster is fully functional with a kitchen, bed, potty, shower, a deck up top complete with umbrella, and an awning.

Building the dumpster kindled the joy he had as a child building his creations.  Kloehn writes,

There is a spontaneity and playfulness in making small homes that traditional houses do not offer.  It reminds me of making forts as a kid, no city planners, no architects, no crews, no bank loans, just my ideas and my hands.” His love of helping people was naturally the next step in this passion of his. He started building tiny homes for homeless people in his neighborhood.

Tiny houses are not a new concept in our culture. With real estate far out of the reach for the average person now, people are looking for alternative housing ideas. What sets this idea apart from an average tiny house is that they are given away for free to the people in our country who need the most help. Here are some thoughts from Kloehn on why he is so excited.

Tiny houses are striking a number of cords in our society. They are not just homes but fast becoming a lifestyle option. They are, usually, (but not always)  cheaper than regular homes, giving more people the opportunity of ownership. By skipping the traditional 30-year mortgage, perhaps the tiny home movement could even reshape the way we think about work and what we want to accomplish with our lives.

The tiny home movement is also embracing and mixing all forms of new and old technologies, making them hotbeds of ingenuity, creativity, and environmentalism. Small spaces means that it’s easier to power an entire house with the sun or wind, and water can be collected, used, used again and reused with simple catch and filtration systems. Even black waste can be turned into methane and/or composite for food production. From the loner in a simple tipi, to the high-tech self-contained living pod, the tiny homes have something for everyone.

Many of the tiny homes are on wheels or small enough to be moved with relative ease. I think this degree of mobility is one of the most revolutionary aspects of the tiny home movement; what if you bought or built the home you wanted, then rented the land. Your customized home could follow you wherever you needed to be. If you built a home that followed you throughout your life, I bet you would be a bit more thoughtful in your choices.

With these little houses for the homeless, portability is essential because the city will make a homeless person move every few weeks. You can see the wheels in the photo (above) from photographer Brian Reynolds.

Another perk to this tiny home project is that Kloehn is cleaning up his neighborhood by working almost exclusively with recycled materials. He uses abandon wood, bed frames, futon frames, solid doors, auto glass … anything that might work to build up a tiny house. Most of the items are found. Some of them are donated by businesses. For the parts that can’t be found through recycling, Kloehn is relying on donations from the public. He’s hoping the idea catches on so that other people will build homes for the homeless. With this idea in mind, he is willing to travel to teach workshops on how to build these for anyone who wants to help. They only take a little more than a week to construct.

It might not be a perfect solution, but one thing is certain, social entrepreneurs like Kloehn are going to have some of the answers for the problems that have been plaguing our society. It is these creative minds with a strong educational background who are going to bring back the hopes and dreams that seem to have slipped away for a great deal of people in our country. Wouldn’t it be great if Landesa could find some micro-acreage for tiny homes, and if HandUp could help with supplies, and if Kloehn’s tiny houses could be established then … maybe, just by having a place to put their heads at night,  a place to keep warm on a cold winter’s day, a little place they could call home—these forgotten people in our country wouldn’t feel so homeless anymore.

 

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Landesa – Fighting Poverty Acre by Acre

 

Half of the world’s population — 2.8 billion — lives on less than $2 a day. And 70 percent of those live in rural areas where agriculture is the only means to survive. For
those that own land, life is good. Land ownership can provide housing, warmth, comfort, food, good health, stable conditions to bring up a family, access to credit and a place of status within a community. For those that don’t own land, it is a day-to-daylandesa struggle just to stay alive. If people are fortunate enough to find work in agriculture, they are working for someone else to gain the profits of their labor, leaving them with a lot of time and effort for someone else’s benefit. The land situation is worse for women. Women hold less status than men do in many of these places. They are not allowed to own land, even if it is passed down through inheritance within the family.

This is where president and CEO Tim Hanstad of Landesa enters into the picture. Hanstad, following in the footsteps of Landesa’s founder Roy Prosterman, tackles this problem at the government level. He establishes a working relationship with various world governments, trying to change the laws that inhibit women and men from obtaining land or keeping the land they have. Field surveys are taken in rural districts of China, Africa and India to find out exactly what the situation is with the poor who are living there, and if they have or have ever had access to owning their own land. Then, time is spent researching the current laws in those areas to see where changes could be made to improve the lives of those who are so desperately in need. In doing so, it is possible to help whole communities of people rather than working with each individual at a time.

The idea is simple. In just one tenth of an acre of land, a family can have a home and enough space left over to grow fruits and vegetables for the family to eat year-round. Any excess could be sold at market. This small parcel would be cheap enough for governments to secure enough micro-acreage to give to many of the poorest people in their nation. So far, Landesa has helped 100 million families secure land and escape poverty. Their main focus is for women to secure or keep land and in the inheritance rights of girls.

According to the Schwab Foundation, since, Hanstad joined Landesa in the 1980s, the company “has grown 100-fold, opened eight new offices in Asia and Africa and has generated tens of millions of dollars of earned income.” Hanstad has been recognized as “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” by the Schwab Foundation and in 2012 by the Skoll Foundation.