We Did It!!! My Tiny House is Now 10 Tiny Houses for the Homeless!

We did it friends! We raised $10,000 to turn my tiny house into 10 tiny houses for the homeless!

Thank you to everyone who shared the campaign, donated, and gave support. A special thanks to Beth Linley for buying the tiny house, to Sheena Singh for donating $3,000 to build the last 3 houses, and to Lisa Kogan for leading the way on creating this first of its kind tiny house community in San Diego. For those of you who want to follow the progress of the community you can do so through HomelessToHoused.org or join the Tiny House San Diego Facebook group.
As for me I no longer have a fixed home and am down to just the possessions that fit on my back. I will be traveling my country and the world in the service of others helping to light little fires of goodness everywhere I go. This is the last video of me with my tiny house but far from the last you’ll hear of me. So please do stay tuned as much inspiration is to come!

 

Update June 2016: I Interviewed Lisa Kogan to keep you updated on the progress and tell you more about what we’re doing. Lisa is the main woman behind the tiny house community where the 10 tiny houses we raised money for will be.

How did this tiny house community idea come into existence?

After watching a video that was shared on my Facebook page about a guy named Elvis Summers, who built a tiny house for an elderly lady living on the streets near his apartment, I became inspired to provide shelter for a homeless person living on the streets in San Diego. My birthday was a few months away, so I started a crowd fundraising page. I asked my friends to donate towards the building the tiny shelter instead of buying me a birthday present. With the help of many friends, we built the 4×8 wooden structure for Redd, a man who has been homeless for almost 20 years. The shelter was placed outside of a downtown church among many tents and people sleeping on the sidewalk. It was the first time in over a decade Redd could lock a door behind him at night and have peace of mind while he slept. After only 3 days, Redd was arrested and the tiny house was impounded. We bailed Redd out of jail and the story got a lot of media coverage. I put the word out that I am looking for property to create a tiny house community. Frustrated with the failure of the city of San Diego to house thousands of homeless persons in the region who are struggling to survive without shelter, a group of around a dozen Tiny House San Diego members came together to create a “meantime” housing solution for the homeless community. A coalition called Homeless to Housed San Diego was formed by many compassionate souls as well as three nonprofits: Moderate Majority, I-Wood International and Amikas.

Where will the 10 houses go? What’s the current situation with the land?

We are still working on where to put the tiny houses. Originally, we had found an empty lot in downtown and met with the landowner who agreed to allow us to place the tiny houses on his lot. He agreed to sign a 6-month lease and ended up backing out. Currently, we are in the processing of submitting a proposal to the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego. Members of Homeless to Housed learned about a church property that would be great space for our tiny shelter village.

How will you keep these houses from being taken by the police?

Our goal is to find property that the tiny shelters can be placed upon legally and get the permits to do so. We would also like to work with the police and have meetings with them sharing our plans and hearing their concerns about the village.

This community is about so much more than just housing 10 people at a time. Tell me more about the mission of the community and what will be happening on site. 

Our mission it to provide a clean and safe meantime solution for the homeless crisis by providing tiny shelter communities, life skills training, and job opportunities to empower our homeless brothers and sisters to rebuild their lives. We don’t want to just provide a safe place for them to rest their heads, we want to provide supportive services for the residents to get off the streets and into permanent housing.

Is there plans of solar panels for energy, rainwater harvesting, and a community garden? Tell me all about this!

Yes! We would like to be as eco-friendly as possible- each tiny shelter will have solar panels and we will collect rainwater for our organic community garden. A local nursery has offered to help out with our garden once we have property.

What are going to be the greatest challenges and do you think they can be overcome?

Our greatest challenge is getting the city’s approval. I do have concerns with our current mayor. Unfortunately, he does not agree with our efforts to create a tiny shelter community. He recently spent $57,000 on putting in a “rock garden” under an overpass where many homeless people sleep. That money could have been better spent to help those living on the street. The “rock garden” doesn’t help solve San Diego’s huge issue with homelessness- it just pushes them into bordering neighborhoods. The police and city workers also do “sweeps” which are ineffective and costly for the city. While we won’t have the backing of the city, I do believe we can move forward and create a successful community for those in need. We just need to find property, which of course, is another challenge.

Do you see this community as a good solution to homelessness?

Our tiny shelter community will not end homelessness, but what it will do is provide people with a safe, warm place to rest their head at night. We can’t expect the homeless to tackle problems if they are cold, unsafe, and are constantly in “survival mode.” The way to combat homelessness is to provide someone with hope, with safety, with warmth, and with an address…a tiny home can do all that and more! You cannot get a job without an address. After Redd was arrested, he shared with me that he had lost all hope and felt like everyone had given up on him. He stated, “It felt like I had been in a 20 year coma and now I am being reborn.”

What other things must take place to end homelessness in San Diego? Are you supportive of the housing first solution?

I believe we must change the way we view those folks living on the streets. They are human beings and so often it’s easy for people to pass judgment, which is easy to do when we lack understanding. No one grows up saying they want to be homeless. Something tragic happened along the way. Many people prefer to ignore the ugly truth that is our homelessness epidemic and just walk past those in need on the streets, however those people we so promptly dismiss are still human beings that deserve the same basic necessities of life that most take for granted. It is far too easy to label our homeless population as the broken, the lost, the hopeless, the misfits, the drug addicted, or the lazy. However, they are also the mentally ill that have not been afforded proper care, the hard working that were dealt a tough hand, children that have never been given appropriate guidance or opportunities for change, and worst of all…our veterans, many of whom suffered the travesties of war without the proper support to handle the after affects.

I am supportive of the Housing First Model. We just don’t have enough low-cost housing in San Diego, so we need something in the meantime; a bridge between the gutter and permanent housing. We are calling our tiny shelter village a “meantime” solution, not a permanent solution. In order to end homelessness, we are going to have to think about how we handle it. We need more low-cost housing and we need to provide resources to help them once they are in permanent housing.

Is the $10,000 we raised going to end up covering the costs of building 10 tiny houses? What is the estimated cost per tiny house?

Yes, the money will cover the cost of building 10 tiny houses! On average the houses cost $1,000 each (4×8: $750, 8×8: $1,000 and 8×12: $1,250).

What size are the houses?

We have three different size houses: the 4×8 is our single occupancy unit, the 8×8 unit would be perfect for a single mom and a child and the 8×12 unit would be suitable for a mom and several children or a family.

Where is the progress at now and are you feeling good about how things are coming along?

On my quest to learn more about the tiny house communities in Oregon, I took a road trip to visit two tiny house communities in Oregon. I visited Opportunity Village in Eugene. It took two years to open their doors. Progress has been slower than I want. There are many, many homeless people on the street, including elderly, veterans and women and children. The need is great! My homeless brothers and sisters are counting on me and I won’t stop fighting for them. It was a setback for us when the original property fell through. We’ve been met with resistance from the city as well as other organizations that don’t believe in what we are doing or think it’s a great idea but don’t want this in their backyard.

What can people do to get involved and where can the follow the mission?

Those that wish to donate time or money to the tiny house project can join the movement on our Facebook page, Tiny House San Diego. If you or someone you know has property to donate for a tiny house community, please come forward and contact us. You will be directly contributing to improving, and possibly saving, the lives of many in need in our city. Our website is HomelesstoHoused.org and you can also email me directly at [email protected] You can also donate to our Go Fund Me page.

Rob- a HUGE thank you to you and all your supporters for donating to our tiny shelter community and believing that EVERYONE deserves shelter!! Love to each and every one of you! My heart is filled with gratitude. Thank you!