OFf-Grid News reports on the booming Tiny Homes movement.
The houses are the size of a regular settee or a little bigger. They are painted in happy colours — yellow, pink, blue — and have names, RDX2, The Chuck Wagon, Uni-Bomber and so on. The floors are made of wooden pallets reclaimed from leftover construction material; the windows are discarded washing machine doors. The insides are insulated with the help of pizza delivery bags. And these dwellings have wheels. Total cost of construction: $30-40 per house. Selling price: Free.
Oakland, California in the US has two problems: It is known for illegal dumping of garbage — known as ‘mid-night dumping’ it is non-hazardous garbage discarded by people in places other than dedicated facilities. Secondly, it has a large number of homeless people who live under tarps, torn cardboard boxes or anything they can find in the dumpsters; something to protect them from the vagaries of weather and the world.
43-year-old artist and builder, Gregory Lincoln Kloehn, a native of Oakland, has found a solution of sorts to both the problems with his Homeless Homes Project (HHP). Kloehn tells Bangalore Mirror, “I wish I could say that I set out to house the homeless, but my motivation was not so lofty.” Three years ago, Kloehn an art-degree holder who has been into construction for many years building different kinds of condos/homes, was working on a book about ‘homeless architecture’. “I quickly became enamored by the resourcefulness of the homeless,” he recalls. “They would take objects found on the streets to create homes.” Kloehn took these same materials to his house and after a week, he had built “a 21st century hunter/gather home, built from the discarded fruits of the urban jungle”.
This tiny home sat in his studio for months. One rainy night, Charlene, a homeless woman Kloehn had known for 10 years, asked him if he had a tarp for her. “I told her I didn’t have one and I went back inside,” remembers Kloehn. As he walked past the ‘hunter-house’ sitting in the middle of his work space, he thought: “I should give her this.” He ran back out and told her to come back the next day. “I will have a home for you,” he promised.
Charlene and her husband came back the next day. Kloehn handed them a set of keys and a bottle of champagne and watched them push his first mobile home down the street. “It felt so good that I started making another one that same day.” That was the beginning of the HHP.
The homes are primarily built out of illegally dumped garbage and industrial waste. In the mornings, Kloehn gets a coffee and drives around to the dumping hot spots in Oakland. He rummages around for pallets, bed frames, futon frames, doors, plywood, paint, packing crates, car consoles, auto glass, refrigerator shelves…etc. “I basically look for anything made out of real wood, any . ered glass and sturdy frames for the walls. The only items I buy are nails, screws, glue, paint brushes and saw blades. Everything else comes from the street or the dumpster.”
All the homes built by Kloehn have wheels. “Homeless people get moved by the city and need to relocate to a new area every few weeks,” he explains. “So it’s imperative to make these homes mobile.”
When a home is completed, Kloehn pushes it out to the street, takes some photos of it, and then gives it away — for free. The homes, he says, take on a life of their own. One was stolen, one was sold, one was firebombed, one is in a neighbor’s back yard with dogs living in it, and the rest are still on the streets with people living in them. Kloehn says: “It is tough out there (for the homeless). So I keep making more.”
People usually become emotional when they receive a home from Kloehn. “They are so happy! One cried and got on his knees to thank me. They think I should make them bigger and suggest improvements. They like to decorate it themselves,” he says. It takes him a couple of days to finish a home. He spends two days in a week on this project. Now that he has volunteers pouring in to help him more homes get built and faster too.
“With an endless supply of garbage and a large number of homeless, I know that I’ll be busy for a while with the HHP.” Kloehn says that he’d “love to make” a functioning city from garbage, or at least some businesses. In the meantime he hopes that people everywhere start building homes for the homeless. He is willing to go anywhere to encourage or teach people how to build these tiny homes. “Send me a ticket and I am there,” he says. But the homes are for free.
A similar initiative is taking place among students and faculty of SCAD Atlanta, who currently sleep in the parking lot of the Atlanta campus’s primary building. This is actually an experiment in small living spaces, and not some dorm crisis or protest. Students, professors, and alums, designed all the details of three 135-square-foot ‘SCADpads,’ including toilets made using 3-D printers, portable fire features, and elaborated architectural planning to fit an effective and small home into an area the size of a standard parking space. The tiny homes are designed to explore ways of developing housing in underused parking decks in high-density urban centers: SCAD’s Midtown garage is capable of holding up to 400 of the miniature dwellings. The designs could also could become future models for emergency and affordable housing.
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