Most of us tend to associate the tiny-house phenomenon more with hipsters than with the homeless, but the architectural trend may offer a way to help people on the streets get back on their feet. The Guardian recently took a look at Eugene, Oregon’s Opportunity Village, a sustainable community of 30 transitional homes for homeless people, where each dwelling clocks in at just 60 square feet. It’s not the only development of its kind, as Andrew Heben, the man behind the project, observed in his recent book Tent City Urbanism. In the past few years, temporary dwellings for the homeless have been installed in cities across the United States, from Los Angeles to Madison, Wisconsin. That many of them are unique illustrates the important role that smart, efficient design can play in helping to improve the quality of life for those in need.
Here are a few examples from around the country:
In Wisconsin, Occupy Madison has built three 98-square-foot houses for the homeless, and the group plans to complete six more soon. With their gabled roofs, wood cladding, and bright colors, the houses exude a welcoming air. Each costs $4,500.
In Ventura, California, 24 weatherproof U-Domes have provided shelter to the city’s homeless population for the past four years. “River Haven is a unique partnership between the City of Ventura and Turning Point Foundation that provides a drug-free community with supporting social services for persons unsheltered,” World Shelters founder Bruce LeBel said. The structures are based on Buckminster Fuller’s modular geometry, and each costs roughly $1,500.
The nonprofit Mobile Loves & Fishes is currently building a homeless village in Austin that it says will provide housing for “the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas.” The community will include 100 RVs, 100 micro-houses, and 25 of these unique canvas-sided cottages. Each measures approximately 144 square feet and contains a single bed, chair, and table. The home has electrical power for light, but the kitchen, bathrooms, showers, and laundry facilities are communal.
“Intershelters” are another form of transitional housing for the homeless; beginning in the early 2000s, 20 units were installed in downtown Los Angeles for about 13 years, until the project lost its lease on the parking lot where it was located. The prefabricated units are made from interlocking shingles that form 196-square-foot domes. “We could put an end to homelessness in America as we know it today, all with renewable energy and a near net zero carbon foot print,” the company founder Don Kubley said. Each costs about $7,000.
Quixote Village in Olympia, Washington, started out as a protest in a downtown parking lot in 2007, and it now has 30 traditional, 144-square-foot cottages, as well as a vegetable garden, community building, showers, and laundry. Because of a city ordinance, the camp (run by the organization Panza) moves from one church parking lot to another every 90 days. “There is a strong conviction that people should not have to live in tents, and that as a country and a community, we can do better,” says a statement on Panza’s Facebook page.
This adobe structure is one of several tiny houses built for the homeless in Portland, Oregon’s Dignity Village, which was one of the earliest tiny house communities when it opened in 2001. The 120-square-foot space is constructed from mud and straw and clad in weatherproof adobe.