Can Tiny Houses Help Solve the Problem of Homelessness?

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Can tiny houses change the world? We think so. In two different projects, one in Austin and one in Olympia, Washington, concerned folks are turning to micro-housing to help solve the problem of homelessness.

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The diminutive houses pictured above are part of Quixote Village, a community of formerly homeless adults in Olympia, Washington. Each house is only 144 square feet, with just enough room for a bed, a desk and chair, and a tiny bathroom with a toilet and sink. Showers and a kitchen are located in a community center shared by all the residents.

The 29 adults that call these houses home used to live in a tent city, also called Quixote Village, that moved every 90 days to the parking lot of a different church. Some of the church members, after getting to know the residents of the tent city, started campaigning for a permanent location. Funding was secured, and the architect, Garner Miller, agreed to design the project for half his normal fee.

Meetings were held, and the future residents got to be involved in the design of their homes: they chose larger porches over more inside living area, and asked that the houses be arranged in a horseshoe shape, instead of in clusters, to encourage community. The tiny houses are much cheaper to build than typical affordable housing projects, and their freestanding nature gives residents a sense of independence, while still being connected to a community.

The location, in an industrial park and next to a retention pond, isn't quite picturesque, but that doesn't make these new residents any less house-proud. They've spruced up their little spaces with tapestries, art, and new curtains — and are excited about using them as a springboard to a new life.

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And a little bit farther south, in Austin, Texas, a similar project is in the works. Community First Village, slated to break ground in 2014, will house 200 chronically homeless people in mobile homes, refurbished RVs, and even teepees. The site will also include 'tiny houses' like the one pictured at the top of this post, which are being designed in collaboration with students from the University of Texas School of Architecture. The 27-acre village will have a a community garden, a bed and breakfast, an outdoor movie theater, and medical and vocational services.

While residents of Quixote Village are asked to pay a rent totaling 30% of their income only if they have an income, all Community First Village residents will be asked to pay a low monthly rent. It's aimed at providing housing for people with minimal incomes who can't afford to live anywhere else, and helping them get back on their feet.

To learn more about Quixote Village and learn how you can get involved, you can read about the project on the New York Times and check out their website.

Read more about Community First Village on KUT News and on their website.

(Image credits: Joy Diaz for KUT News; Quixote Village)

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