Gregory’s Homeless Homes Project

Many readers of the Tiny House Blog might know Gregory Kloehn best from his Dumpster home that was featured on Inside Edition and the Rachel Ray Show. Gregory now has a new project in the works. The Homeless Homes Project, which features tiny structures built out of illegally dumped garbage and industrial waste are becoming more than an environmental stance or garbage art. These little homes are fast becoming a collaborative project between different groups who want to help shelter people who live on the streets.

homeless-shelters

With names like R2D2, Romanian Farm House, Uni-bomber Shack and The Chuck Wagon, these structures are built from pallets, bed frames, futon frames, doors, plywood, OSB, paint, packing crates, car consoles, auto glass, refrigerator shelves and anything else Gregory can find in local dumping areas around his home in Oakland. He looks for anything that has real wood, tempered glass and sturdy frames, and only purchases nails, screws, glue, paint brushes and saw blades. When a home is completed, he pushes it into the street, take a few photos and then gives it away.

homeless-shelter-gregory

“From that point on, I have no more say in it,” Gregory said. “The homes take on a life of their own. One was stolen, one was sold, one was firebombed, one is in a neighbor’s backyard with dogs living in it, the rest are still on the streets with people living in them.”

Gregory’s initial concept of these homes was not to house the homeless but came about because of some research he was conducting on homeless architecture and the various structures built by people who live on the street. He was inspired by their resourcefulness to take found objects and create homes and a livelihood from them.

“I was inspired to take these same materials back to my shop and put them together in a more permanent fashion,” Gregory said. “After about a week of collecting and building, I had a 21st century hunter/gather home, built from the discarded fruits of the urban jungle.”

homeless-shelter-window

“This sat at my studio for a number of months, just collecting dust,” he continued. “One rainy night, Charlene, a homeless woman I’ve known for some 10 years, asked if I had a tarp for her.  I told her I didn’t have one and I went back inside. As I walked past the home, it hit me, I should give her this. I ran back out and told her to come back tomorrow and I would have a home for her.  She and her husband Oscar came back the next day. I handed them a set of keys and a bottle of champagne and watched them push it down the street. It felt so good that I started making another one that same day.”

homeless-shelter2-inside

homeless-shelter-inside

Gregory’s now working on the projects with several community groups and people who come to his shop to help. The plan is to move into a larger space that can accommodate workshops and larger builds. He said his Dumpster home project taught him many lessons that he’s applying to the Homeless Homes including sticking to his original vision.

“Regardless of what others say, or what you may even say to yourself about an idea, if you think it has merit and you want to do it, you should just do it,” he said. “Don’t let petty details derail your desires, you can deal with those later, what’s important is the essence of your ideas.”

Gregory’s interest in tiny homes came from building a lot of different homes and condos over the years and realizing that the smaller projects actually made him happier.

“There is a spontaneity and playfulness in making small homes that traditional houses do not offer,” Gregory said. “It reminds me of making forts as a kid, no city planners, no architects, no crews, no bank loans, just my ideas and my hands.”

homeless-shelters-Gregory-Kloehn

Photos by Gregory Kloehn

By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]

53 Comments Gregory’s Homeless Homes Project

  1. Walt Barrett

    It’s a good idea considering the direction that our economy is headed in. Good luck with the permitting and the police. The cities are not going to like it unless they can tax it.

    Reply
  2. Clarke

    Wow, this is really inspirational. I love the way Gregory just does it without worrying about city codes, and how the authorities will react to it; he just helps people because it’s the right thing to do. I’ve thought about this kind of thing in my Michigan area, but here I also have to consider the sub zero temperatures which drives so many people into the shelters that they overflow and can’t shelter everybody. I wonder if it would be possible to build tiny homes with a rudimentary (but safe) wood burning stove to keep inhabitants warm.

    Reply
    1. Jeanne in Seattle

      Simpler would be LOTS of insulation. Separate thought…very productive kitchen gardens are made of pallets set almost vertically with soil held in by landscape cloth. Could a house with a double wall of pallets also be a garden to grow food? (One wall for warmth and waterproofing and a second to hold soil. ).

      Reply
      1. Alan

        Being homeless the biggest problem you will have is condensation from any heating element in that size space. If you use soil or dirt, you will have mud once it thaws. It will collapse. I have an idea where you could use the silver reflective car shades that have bubbles inside them as an insulative layer along with Tyvec paper as a mositure barrier would work nicely. You will need to have a very small venting system that will allow the condensation to evaporate regardless. This can be done with two small vents, one on the bottom at one end and one on top at the other end with an adjustable opening.

        Reply
  3. Dee

    What a wonderful and generous thing to do! The builds are also quite artistic and I love that they are totally made of discarded materials!

    Reply
  4. Bert

    I’ve been thinking of some kind of wheeled shelter like this for sometime…but ,I was off track. I was thinking of some kind of mass produced plastic thingy…like Rubbermaid/little tykes plastic. Gregory’s project is spot on! Recycled /reclaimed materials,community workshops..and best of all…. INDIVIDUALITY and CUTEness. Kudos to Gregory. Maybe we need a co-op with HABITAT for HUMANITY to help this idea really spread around the GLOBE.

    Reply
  5. Tammy

    I agree that this a wonderful way to help those in need,this makes me happy to know people still care,

    The only issue I see is the government,they will come after these homes,knowing they did not think of this and they are not making any money off of these.

    Bless you for doing this for some who have been hit so hard from the difficult times we are going through.My brother was homeless in California for 5 years and there was a group of homeless people who had made a small area their home and my brother told me every once and a while the police would come and destroy everything.

    Being homeless is an epidemic that is being over looked.

    I say keep building!

    Reply
  6. Mike

    So the answer is to move people into basically dog houses?

    It has been my experience that most of the shopping cart homeless are mental health cases.

    Do you really think that these dog houses will escape notice of property owners ?

    Converting old storefronts into homeless shelters make sense.

    This just makes you feel good…

    Reply
    1. elisabeth in CT

      Mike, The very stresses of homelessness go a long way to creating the mental issues that many people on the street suffer from. It creates a negative spiral that is very difficult to reverse. Please understand that there are NO dependable or functional mental health services for homeless people (unless they commit a crime – they then get 3 hots & a cot and psychiatric drugs to render them harmless) – Yes, there is a place for converting store fronts, but for many reasons, a public shelter can be a difficult place for many homeless people to access. Gregory’s independent personal living units fill a vital need for those who have no permanent address or any way to obtain one – for example, couples can stay together with their pets and keep their belongings close. These units are both portable and safer than sleeping on a park bench or in the precarious social environment of public shelter – they are one man’s compassionate and creative solution to huge social problem.

      Reply
    2. MJ

      Dog houses. Property owners. Feel good. And what, Mark, are you doing to feel good? I’d say you need some volunteer soup kitchen time, just to open up a wee bit of your self. Give it a try some snowy night. Like tonight.

      Reply
    3. Bert

      Tell that to the thankful homeless folks that are warm,dry, and who’s very few personal belonging are locked up safe tonight ..in one of GREGORYS DOGHOUSES. Shame on you . So ..only a perfect solution that solves the whole homeless issue as a whole is acceptable to you?
      What solutions have YOU actually put out in the world? He never claimed to be eliminating homelessness… He’s contributing what he can….using HIS ideas and talents to do SOMETHING positive, not bitching about someone else’s efforts that don’t please him….Shame on you.

      Reply
    4. Penny in KC

      I’ve been homeless, living in a cardboard box or huddling under a tree in a cemetery. Until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes … I would have loved to have had one of these “dog houses” to stay in, out of the cold and the dark.

      Gregory, keep up the great work … it really inspires me to do more for the many homeless in my city. Thank you … from the bottom of my heart.

      Reply
  7. Wendy

    I think it’s wonderful what you’re doing. I also feel a bit skeptical about how the city of Oakland will eventually react to these, though. I can also see the officials rounding them up on a regular basis and destroying them, claiming they are unsafe, unsanitary, a fire hazard, etc. I think it will take some kind of community involvement to allow them to stay on the streets. As many people have pointed out- the local government wants their nut, and likely there will be people in the community who complain and consider them to be eyesores. It’s a fascinating idea, though, and bravo to you for doing what you can to help. Yes- many if not most of the “shopping cart homeless” are mentally ill- we can thank Ronald Reagan and his concern for the “civil rights” of the mentally ill (in other words- mental institutions were costing the state too much money, so the mentally ill were turned into out-patients- which simply does not work). Store-front homeless shelters offer no privacy and many of the mentally-ill homeless refuse to stay there, preferring the freedom of the streets. It’s a very very complex topic.

    Reply
    1. greg

      We’ve had 4 Presidents since Reagan. Two of which were democrats. Any one of them could have “fixed” the damage Reagan supposedly done.

      Reply
      1. PappyBone

        St. ronnie didn’t “supposedly” do anything. What he Did do is defund the California Mental Health system and as pResident (resident in OUR White House), lit the fuse called “trickle down” igniting the financial and economic hell that We the People now are slaves under. Please get a grip!

        CONservatism is Treason! Vote third party!

        Reply
  8. Lisa Proctor

    As someone who is starting my own non-profit to provide education dollars to high risk youth i am well aware of government interference in “trying to help” those in need. I admire you sticking your neck out for others and I encourage you to keep going in spite of negative roadblocks, government red tape and hateful comments. This world needs more people willing to carve out their own niche in spite of the odds…Great Project!!

    Reply
  9. Donna Vanscoyk

    True, people who don’t help anyone but themselves [especially money hungry government types, system people will fight and destroy because that is what they do] but please keep on doing what you are doing and it will catch on and it will help countless people feel connected again and give them a life and what a wonderful feeling it gives you and your helpers as well as the homeless….yea, xmas every day….lol and may God bless you and your work…

    Reply
  10. mishea

    ANY effort to “take care” of our fellow humanity is always a step in the right direction. as the creative ideas and efforts flow(it’s the motive,i.e. protecting a human from the elements that is trying to be addressed)..other solutions [with integrity]even through local laws ….will follow.The mentally ill on the streets is another issue altogether that needs a shift in our priorities.
    Besides how many of us may wish these shelters, however temporary(hopefully) were more common place in availability & construction if WE are the ones surviving a climate disaster, waiting for the ‘gov’ to show up(with the check or materials) to rebuild OUR house??!! Way to go Gregory!! Creativity begets creativity,especially that which comes from the heart of the human spirit!!!

    Reply
  11. Dee

    At first I thought they looked like dog houses. I understand that homeless need homes but I am not so sure that city code will allow these on the streets? Also where do they locate them to sleep? They are hard shell homes not temporary homes so there would be cause for problems. One such problem is a cause for square footage changes to code. Would these structures encourage homeowners to worry that these type homes would be allowable in their neighborhoods? And so discourage actual Tiny Homes in neighborhoods. It is hard enough building a home less than 1000 sq feet in any city let alone have people thinking that if code is allowed to change that this type of structure is allowable too. Nice idea but cause for further discussion.

    Reply
  12. Pam

    I’ve been thinking about this for some time. A lot of cities have “tent communities.” So why would this be any different….other than to be more attractive, healthy, and safe? I Like thIS IDEA. If they could have an actual address getting a job would be possible!

    Reply
  13. stacey k

    wow! what an inspiring story – simplicity and creativity meeting a need. you can sense the joy in gregory’s generousity, which makes this story all the more beautiful. thanks tiny house blog/Christina for posting this! made my day :)

    Reply
  14. lynn

    very generous and creative idea that is all about doing something for ‘the greater good’. WHo knows how it will end up tomorrow or next week. Today, it is an offer to help an indiv or a couple, it’s a hand up, an adorable structure to hand a hat.

    I love your advice, too- stay focused on the essence of your idea, don’t get distracted by pettiness or opinions of others. Great message.

    Reply
  15. angie

    “Cadillac of Homeless Shelters”, was the first article I read a while back about shelters for the homeless. I love the fact that this idea has been put into action. I am so happy to see that you a long with others are reaching out and doing something to help another human being. If any of you want to read about more incredible angels like Gregory, go to the categories section of this blog and go to Humanitarian. I was so moved by the “Cadillac of Homeless Shelters ” article and pictures. Very cool, keep up this amazing gift God has given you. Good job, faithful servant.

    Reply
  16. Kachina

    I wish people in Michigan and Wisconsin would do this. I wish this was a cheaper way for those who could no afford aregular home,but could buy these.A start to something great,but if someone isn’t making money off it or the government they wont pass.

    Reply
  17. MJ

    Thankfully, this guy is not stopped by worry. Maybe it won’t last long, people getting some small private shelter. Maybe it will. Maybe someone will donate some space for these. Maybe Some homeless guy who was once a carpenter will be inspired to help out. Maybe one life or more will be positively changed because of some compassion and not worrying about the rules. In a world where we let the rules overrun us because of our fears, I say hear! hear! to this man and thank you for just following the moment of doing something for someone else. Who knows what magic might follow?

    Reply
  18. tinyhousetom

    Local government is not always about making money. Sometimes it is about saving money. If keeping somebody warm and dry keeps them healthier and out of the ER it is worth more than any tax they could have collected. Even the cost of an ambulance ride is enough to argue in favour of shelters.

    Reply
  19. Benjamin

    One solution would be for the city to designate an empty lot in an unused industrial area where these homes could be temporarily located and maybe provide some community facilities such as porta-potties. It is a solution to a problem so a city would be foolish to demolish it.

    Reply
  20. Amanda Eberly

    Unbelievable! You are brilliant and an inspiration. I live in Orlando and know many homeless from taking my dogs to the local park daily. Some of them would love this, others would resent being “tied down”. They would have to constantly fight to keep it from being stolen. However-it is a brilliant idea,particularly for couples, single women on the streets and groups who band together for safety.
    Keep up the great work.

    Reply
  21. Love Maggie

    Absolutely LOVE this and ready to collaborate on a project like this!!! Love the enthusiasm here and yes! the just do it attitude, it’s the best kind of human spirit….Love in Action! Always a fan of the washing machine windows, these remind me of Deek’s Simple Shacks and just really WONDERFUL to see!! Thanks Gregory, Christina, and Tiny House Blog!!! Tiny but big time inspiring!

    Reply
  22. Susan Juetten

    My heart-opening moment of the day, thank you.

    True creativity moved to action to be of service, seems like an actual new trend in this stuck old human world. Things can change, even if incremental.

    Reply
  23. AVD

    In the first Great Depression, homeless folks lived in shanty towns referred to as “HooverVille”.

    In the second Great Depression, these non-self-help units for the new homeless will be properly called “ObamaVille”.

    Give a man a house and he is sheltered for a day. Teach a man how to build a house and he is sheltered for life.

    Reply
  24. Linda

    Nice job Greg. And when I first saw your tiny homes I didn’t think dog house I thought tiny homes. I bet Charlene was grateful to have more than a tarp to sleep under where she could be out of the elements with her husband and their belongings. Everyone should have a place to call home, even if it’s a temporary solution. Every great idea begins somewhere, it was on the tiny house blog that I saw featured a tiny home community ( I think it was in Sweden) it seemed like a very workable idea to home not only those with lesser means but for those wanting to get away from big mortgages/homes and live simpler. More or bigger is not necessarily better. Thanks for sharing Greg!

    Reply
  25. Malka

    It would be great if they could have a connection that enables people to plug their home to a heat source which the city would set up in different areas.

    Reply
  26. John

    Relax. This is transitional shelter. These are places to sleep and survive and they are better than steam vents, my stoop, or your bushes, so +1.

    This transitional shelter is lovely, artistic, and thought provoking. Better than newspaper heaps, cardboard mattresses and piles of old clothes, all of which have to be gathered again the next night(and then discarded). There is less junk in the alley.

    Pride? Who knows? Perhaps nudging one person over the hump and giving them a touch of price is the start of a recovery? If being responsible for one’s tiny sleeping nook for a little while can instill this pride….

    Lovely work well done. Thanks for the inspiration.

    This is my knee-jerk reaction.

    Peace

    Reply
    1. Penny in KC

      You are right, John. Transitional shelter is sometimes all it takes. That’s what got me off the street – a little room in a crowded shelter, but someplace I could call my own until I got back on my feet. Loved your answer … need more people that think like this.

      Peace out ~

      Reply
  27. Doc

    Wow! Not very often you see someone actually do something to help these folks. How awesome! No, you are not going to get permits or meet codes for these, neither is the cardboard structure he slept in last night or the dumpster the time before that. So, good for Gregory. He’s helping someone, several someone’s in fact. More than most do in a lifetime. And he asks nothing in return. I hope this inspires others to do more like this, even the naysayers here.
    In grand rapids Michigan there is a homeless encampment. They’ve built it themselves. Materials scavenged or dropped off. Firewood dropped off in the winter. Clothing. food. Whatever you can. It’s more than they had yesterday. This home helps.

    Reply
  28. Norma Sloan

    In Florida, as long as a tiny house is on wheels, with a trailer hitch, so it can be moved, it is allowed on private property. Allowing homeless people to used a piece of your property for their tiny house would be a good start to helping the homeless. It does not have to be moved, just able to be move if code inforcement comes around. Other concerns with code inforcement was setbacks. How far from the property line can the moveable home be. We had to move our RV because it was too close to the fence. So knowing the codes would help.

    Reply
  29. Mariah McCord

    So brilliant. With the recent downturn our nation has experienced over the last couple of decades, homeless people and even families are finding themselves in dire straits. I am a female Viet era vet and have long thought tiny home communities could be a long term solution to homelessness. That thought process started to manifest when I found myself in a very close to being homeless situation. Fortunately, that did not materialize for me but it did stoke a lifelong interest. I have huge admiration for Gregory’s selflessness and putting action and energy into motion. My question to all of you of the “tiny house interest” is multi-faceted. Why oh why do we not return to what works. You all have read and learned that in times past in this nation that many times as our nation was being settled that neighbors would come to a location and help build or rebuild a barn or a home. It could be done in a couple of days with many hands. We all have things we no longer use, discarded in our storage areas or garages. Why not use these things. Create a mindset that makes “homelessness” obsolete. The types of tiny structures Gregory builds could be produced en masse in a weekend…depending on number of helpers, materials etc. Many have immediate needs and don’t have the luxury of taking a couple of months or years to save and build.

    While there is no monetary reward for those who build, the sense of pride in helping a fellow human being and perhaps truly making a difference for the better in the life of someone less fortunate is indeed priceless. I am in Texas and would love to be involved in developing these types of “barn raisers” all over the country. Asa time goes on we could expand this to finding parcels of land for parking theses structures reasonably priced, funded by many..like from a website such as Go Fund Me. This would add the ability for those with no building skills or talent to also be a part of a fabulous project. Just food for thought folks. What do you think? BTW Gregory…you totally rock it. Great job.

    Reply
    1. Gordon

      Linda, cool, right. Gypsy wagons! That is a great idea… all what they really need is to install a long arm or handle that folds up out of the way. It would make moving their homes around so much easier, to be able to pull them and steer them with much greater ease. I hope that
      Gregory Kloehn see this, your idea and might be able to incorporate it into some of his next homes on wheels. Even if they (handles) are removable, they could be stored inside or on hooks outside… somewhere.

      Greg, you are a very special man to do this. Thank Yo So Very Much.

      God Bless,
      Gordon.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>