Progressive Graffiti

Can Tiny Houses Help Fix Homelessness?

Colorful, arts & crafts tiny houses for the homeless.

Tiny houses crafted by artist Gregory Kloehn. They are long enough to sleep in. Photo: Brian Reynolds

Can Tiny Houses Help Fix Homelessness?

In November 2013, June lived in a makeshift encampment of tarps and cardboard, squeezed between a road and a chain link fence in West Oakland, California. “It can happen to anybody, man,” he says of life on the street. “Up today, down tomorrow. That’s the way it goes.”

Come last winter, June upgraded from his ramshackle encampment to a pink wooden house with a tan door and shiny roof. The new house, which is just long enough for him to lie down inside, cost only $30 to build.

It’s one of about 25 colorful homes artist Greg Kloehn has fashioned from the massive amounts of garbage dumped illegally in Oakland—a city where a minimum wage worker would have to put in 150-hour weeks to afford a fair market, two-bedroom apartment. He uses whatever materials he happens upon—pallets, bed boards, sheets of plastic, dryer doors. One home has an umbrella and grill propped on its miniature front porch. Wheels accommodate the “nomadic life” of people living on the street, who relocate frequently to avoid cops and city cleanup crews. As Kloehn jokes, he builds “illegal homes out of illegal garbage.”

Similar projects to put tiny roofs over people’s heads have popped up in a handful of US cities. This new approach to homelessness offers the physical protection of a traditional shelter without sacrificing the autonomy of life on the street. And it’s undoubtedly time for some new options: An estimated 578,424 Americans had no home in 2014.

— Katie Rose Quandt, Mother Jones

One of the problems for tiny houses is finding a legal place to put them. Let’s keep working on the homelessness issue.

About the author

JoAnn Chateau

JoAnn Chateau likes progressive politics and loves the canines. She sometimes writes fiction about Chester (the Alpha Bichon) and his friends -- with a dash of humor and dab of Poli-Sci. JoAnn's views and insights are tinted by her past profession in Counseling, Christian theological studies, and Library and Information Science training. Retired now, JoAnn enjoys the creative life.


  • Reblogged this on sliceofheaveninsweden and commented:
    This subject really touches home for me. I just saw on the news that some people in Malmö ( southren Sweden) want the homeless in a park evicted. The police said they hoped that they could persuade the homeless to leave voluntarily. The tv report showed that, The homeless have built shelters out of a pallet and a peice of metal siding as a make shift roof. They did not look like an eye sore to me. Others had made make shift tents out of tarps.

    I personally find this a disgrace and blemish on Swedish society. The social system should assist these people. No one should be homeless and left outside of our society. They are trying to survive through a Swedish winter. I can’t even imagine what their lives must be like during the blizzards with hurricane force winds. The people who complained should have stated their concerns that there were homeless who need assistance and why haven’t they received assistance? 30 years ago to see homeless on the street was unthinkable. I am waiting to see what our government will do for these people.

    • Honey, thanks for commenting. This is such a sad/bad situation, everywhere it seems. We need to keep after law makers to deal effectively and compassionately with homelessness, rather than trying to hide it by dispersing people who are homeless.

      By and large, In the U.S. there is no safety net for people who are near homelessness. What little resources there are from government and private charities, go to those most in need – the ones who are already homeless. And then, it’s hardly anything, some food or emergency health care, a night at a shelter…

      Any country that boasts wealth, should be able and willing to care for the poor and most desperate. Are they prosperous, or not? Maybe not, if they can’t do better by the poor.

      On the more hopeful side, there are some cities here that are trying to deal with homelessness in a constructive and dignified manner. I try to post these examples when I see them.

      • I just read the news in Sweden today that Malmö has given shelter to the homeless in little wooden cottages but said it was temporary. The city official stressed that these immigrants need to return home. I hope that more positive steps are taken.
        I have read about all the heavy handed tactics that are being used in many cities agcross the USA- I do not want to see those tactics here.
        There have been a lot of violence against immigrants recently. Violence against the homeless has been vicious. The government needs to press charges against these individuals that sends a clear message this is not tolerated. That should include police and other state agencies…

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