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The Tiny House Movement Finds a New Purpose: Providing Homes for the Homeless

An artist and a community discover a great way to help the homeless:  build small, eco-friendly houses, and change lives one ‘tiny’ house at a time. 


Gregory Kloehn has been fascinated with nontraditional homes for many years. The artist became famous for converting a dumpster into a portable home, which he equipped with hard woods floors, granite countertops and even a barbeque grill.  Now he is using his talents to make small houses for the homeless in his West Oakland neighborhood, which he provides free of charge.


Kloehn has built 10 of his ‘Little Homeless Homes’ so far,  each with a pitched roof to keep out the rain and a foundation constructed from wood pallets he finds on the street.  He even adds a window and insulates some with discarded pizza delivery bags for warmth.



All of the homes have gotten rave reviews. “They say this is just night and day, especially when it rains,” said Kloehn of his houses' new owners. “Once the mattress gets wet, it’s just terrible.”      



Because there are ordinances preventing people from sleeping on the streets, the houses are limited to about the size of a sofa with added wheels for portability, which makes them easy to move from place to place.  


Wonder, a homeless woman Kloehn has known for many years, was living on an old couch with a tarp thrown over it before Kloehn gave her one of his tiny houses.  Beaming, Wonder said, “This is the best home I’ve had in five years.”


Halfway across the country in an open lot in Madison, Wisconsin, a nonprofit organization called Occupy Madison Build has also joined the tiny house movement for the homeless.


OM Build is offering the homeless the opportunity to help build their own 99 square foot house similar to Kloehn’s design.  Most of the materials are donated, sometimes by the people who will live in the finished house.


Many volunteer to help with the construction as well. Harold ‘Hap’ Morgan, who is homeless, is excited to help build his own tiny home.  “You’re out of the elements,” he said; “you’ve got your own place to call you own.”


Unlike Kloehn’s creations, the homes in Madison will not be portable.


OM Build is hoping to have a permanent site to build these homes on soon. The proposed site will resemble a communal environment built from environmentally friendly materials. If this project is successful, OM Build is planning similar ‘tiny’ communities in Washington State and Oregon. 


The Madison project has not yet been embraced by everyone in the community.  One of the residents close to the proposed building site is concerned about noise, and says she's not sure what her new neighbors will be like.  But with the support of several charities and religious organizations behind it, OM Build has the momentum to keep moving  forward.


What You Can Do


Donate or Volunteer to help Gregory Kloehn build more Little Homeless Homes  at


Donate, Volunteer, or Lend Your Name to show public support for Occupy Madison Build online here.


Watch and Share this video about Occupy Madison Build in this video: