Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tiny Houses For The Poor

Love him or hate him, everybody in St. Louis knows who Pastor Larry Rice is. He owns a couple of public access television stations and some large homeless shelters. Whether or not you agree with his message, his politics, or his methods, few would argue against the fact that he's done more for the poor and homeless than any human being in the state of Missouri, if not the country.

One of his TV stations, Channel 24.2, features 24-hour per day broadcasts that focus on alternative energy, getting people off the gas/electrical grid, and helping the homeless. We have a lot of homeless people in St. Louis. People tend to think of the homeless as degenerates, bums who don't want to work, drug addicts, schizophrenics, and general idiots too stupid to employ. All of these are true at times, but quite often it's just people down on their luck. Jobs are very hard to come by these days. We've had a government for the past 25-years that has encouraged banking and loan institutions to give credit to anyone no matter what their standard of living. Many people took out home loans for houses much too expensive for them (trying to keep up with the Jones) and applied for credit cards they thought they could pay off based on the rate of pay from a job that they no longer have. Now many of those same people have lost their jobs and their homes, and are caught in a compound credit card debt that they will never be able to pay off. It happens much more often than you think. And not everybody has a relative they can go and live with.

Near the Mississippi Riverfront there was an assemblage of homeless people living in tents communally known as Hopeville.

It existed for nearly a year and a half before the city finally made them leave and bulldozed their encampment earlier this year. After that they tried to rebuild in a different area, but it only lasted a day before they were again booted out. Here is footage of Larry rice and two other gentlemen being arrested at the event:

But of course it doesn't stop with St. Louis. There are 700,000 homeless people in the USA currently. That number goes up about 7% per year. Nearly every major city has a homeless village in tents and cardboard boxes. You'd think an island out in the Pacific where the rich and famous live would be immune to this epidemic. Not so. Hawaii in fact has the biggest segment of the homeless per capita. This tiny island state has more than 24,000 homeless people, half of them in Oahu. And it's mostly mainlanders who are the homeless there—not the indigenous peoples. The homeless flock there because it's always warm and because there are so many special provisions for the homeless. They receive free healthcare and a shelter to sleep in for $3 per day that includes three meals. They also get food stamps. There's no better place on Earth to live if you're homelss.

And here are some pics from a former tent city in New Jersey. Like the one in St. Louis, it was also torn down by city officials. Some of these people were very creative at doing the best they could with very little. You've got to take your hat off to them. To have it all just taken away seems incredibly cruel to me.


They even had an outdoor chapple area.

The most frustrating thing about helping the homeless is finding shelters that the city will approve of, and that's really the heart of this post. Nearly every major city has a ton of codes, regulations, and zoning laws that make it impossible for anyone who is NOT a professional contractor to build any kind of housing. It's one thing to throw up a shed, but quite another if you want to live in it. If you want a simple one or two room Daniel Boone style cabin with an outhouse and a wood stove, in most cities you're out of luck. This is one area where I side with the Libertarians. We have too darn many laws that prohibit what a person can and cannot do on his or her own property! How on earth did we ever get to this point?

There's a growing crusade in the world called the Tiny House Movement. They have websites, YouTube videos, and magazines that are meant to promote a more simple lifestyle that's realistic and affordable. Sure you have your "green" folks involved too, but I've found in my research that it isn't about environmental concerns with most folks in the movement. They're tired of wasting money on things they don't need and paying for boats and swimming pools for a bunch of fat cats running the cities and the utility companies. They're all about conserving resources, and living within reason. And they can be very creative in their lodgings. Take a look at a few of the tiny houses that are springing up in the USA, Canada, and Great Britain:


The following is a straw bale house. Lots of luck getting your city to allow one even though they make great houses with good insulation.

It houses a family of four quite well.

Some people try to skirt laws by putting their tiny houses on trailer beds. If your house is on wheels it isn't considered a permanent structure, so most of the building codes don't pertain to it in some cities.

And take a look at this house & movie by a guy named Jay. Okay, he's a weird environmentalist type, but dig the inside of his house.


A growing trend in this tiny house movement is to convert storage sheds into homes. You may have noticed the past couple of years that a lot of very cool looking storage sheds have come on the market, many of which already look quite a bit like a tiny house. Here are a few.

Some of the larger ones even have enough ceiling height to put in a sleeping loft.

All of these sheds sell for less than $5,000, and most are under $3,000. You'd have to add insulation and then cover it with drywall or paneling, but that's cheap to do. Put down some cinder or concrete blocks for a base, add an old fashioned wood stove that serves as both something to cook on and a fireplace to keep you warm, and you've got a cabin Daniel Boone would be proud to live in. You could run a water line in for a bathroom and sink, or if you live in the country you could also dig a well and put up an outhouse. For electricity you could go solar. Solar panels are very cheap right now.

TINY HOUSES FOR THE HOMELESS. We could build tiny homes for the homeless using these sheds for around $5,000 that would be permanent structures they could live in for life if necessary. I bet your church or other civic organization would be willing to build one or two. Doesn't every city have a little bit of land that isn't being used that could be donated as well? How about we house the homeless in these tiny houses and let them pay us back a little at a time? Even $50 per month would pay off one of these dwellings in just five years! Anybody with a part-time job could own one of these. But we've got to get the city(s) to ease up on these housing codes to do it. Having to put a house on wheels to skirt laws is ridiculous. Wouldn't this be better than the constant cycle of people throwing up tents and boxes just to be torn down and having to start over in another part of town? Plus this would give them a regular residence with a mailbox and possibly a phone (cell anyway), and that would go a long way toward helping them find a job.

Beyond that, aren't you just a little bit sick of the government telling you how to live and what you can or can't do on your own property?

Ideas anyone?

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