Occupy Madison (OM) is turning the homeless into homeowners in Madison, Wisc. The organization is achieving this goal in partnership with the homeless. Together, they are building tiny houses of less than 100 square feet. Occupy Madison provides the donated funds and building skills. The homeless provide sweat equity for their own dwellings. The result is a solution that those on the streets could never have envisioned for themselves. At only $3,000 to $4,000 per unit, the potential for resolving the current crisis is immense.
The tiny houses for the homeless contain all the basic necessities.
The tiny houses are largely made of recycled materials. They include a bed, a composting toilet, sink, a small-scale kitchen with refrigerator and microwave, propane heat, and electricity. The first of the homes, just completed, is also equipped with a solar panel. This latest addition was donated by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It can power the home’s four lights as well as charge a cell phone. On Christmas Eve, the new occupants, Betty Ibarra and Chris Derrick, moved into the place they helped create. Ybarra told NBC15, “Everybody did a part. It’s been a community effort.”
It’s the Occupy Movement’s community spirit that gave birth to the tiny houses project. Luca Clemente of Occupy Madison said the homelessness crisis became obvious at the beginning of the Occupy movement. The homeless flocked to the group’s encampments for food and medical care. “Over time, we realized that we had a crisis right here that wasn’t being dealt with and we decided to do something about it.” The final goal is a complete, sustainable community of these homes.
The city of Madison is cooperating with the project.
At first, one very big obstacle stood in the way of the project. There was no place in Madison where it was legal to place the houses. However, they could be parked on the street, as long as they were moved every 48 hours. For that reason, the first houses were built on trailers, which can be relocated as needed. In October, the Madison City Council passed a resolution allowing the houses to stay on land owned by non-profits or in church parking lots.
Occupy Madison is working with churches to put groups of three homes into their parking lots. Eventually, OM wants to buy a piece of land that will hold an entire community. The goal is to create a neighborhood where residents can grow gardens and plan communal projects.
Here’s a video news report from RT America.
The solution for the homeless is spreading to other cities
Austin, Texas is ready to break ground for their own tiny houses project, Community First Village. The village will be built on a 27-acre property. There will be room for 200 residents, who will pay a monthly rent. The organization sponsoring the project, Mobile Loaves and Fishes, estimates that taxpayers will save $10 million a year from 200 of the chronically homeless getting back on their feet.
Similar models are being used in other cities like Portland, Oregon and Olympia, Washington. Occupy Madison frames the project as alternative living for those who have been marginalized. In areas like Madison, minimum-wage workers are priced out of even apartment rentals, forcing them into homelessness.
While the tiny house movement is a boon to society’s disadvantaged, the trend isn’t confined to them. ‘Living small’, in homes that consist of 100 to 400 square feet, has found a receptive audience among many Americans. The motives are to downsize, simplify lives, reduce environmental ‘footprints’, and/or to be free of mortgages and maintenance expenses. One of the best possible outcomes for the new homeowners working with Occupy Madison would be ending up in a way of life that is not only acceptable, but desirable, in the eyes of their fellow citizens.