Advocates use tiny houses for the homeless

Advocates use tiny houses for the homeless

Recently, we’ve been hearing of a new trend: Tiny houses for the homeless.

Plans for these projects have been popping up across the U.S.  Typically, they aim to create a village setting with small homes for people who are living on the streets — sometimes built by the homeless themselves.

Occupy Madison is proposing such a village in Wisconsin (shown in the site plan above).  They want to redevelop an old auto shop, replacing broken down cars and mountains of tires with nine tiny homes, gardens and a retail area where residents can sell things they make. There would also be a workshop where people learn construction and maintenance skills as they put in hundreds of hours each to build the 99-square-foot homes.

The Quixote Village in Olympia, Wash., is another example. Supported by the non-profit group Panza, it is a community with 30 tiny houses.  Residents of a former homeless camp live there and are expected to contribute 30 percent of their income to the community  (although about half of the residents report no income at all, and the average income for the rest of the residents is about $3,100 a year, according to an article by the New York Times).

“Fifty percent of the homeless have some kind of mental illness,” Frank Chopp, a  politician who backed Quixote Village, told the New York Times. “The best way of responding to that is housing. It doesn’t have to be much. Just get them out of the rain, and out of the street.”

Chopp is right:  Houses are  a great way to restore dignity and stability to homeless residents.  But while a warm place to sleep and stay is a good start, it doesn’t solve mental illness, or other underlying causes that can contribute to homelessness.  For these tiny villages to work, advocates will need to move beyond physical structures and make sure residents have the health care and the skills they need to sustain their own success.

What do you think?  Are tiny houses an answer to homelessness?  What can be done  to make sure the villages are a success?

Click below for Occupy Madison’s IndieGoGo fundraising page, which includes a video about their plans:

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