Arched Hobbit Cottage – Homeless Initiative

by Kent Griswold on April 27th, 2010. 16 Comments
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A while back Christina wrote about Zoe Outdoors and than I covered there Eco Cottage. The other day Joe O’Connor wrote me about a new home he has developed that is aimed at the homeless problem in Oregon. I will let Joe explain the project to you.

I am a lawyer by profession, but I retired my practice early to be able to devote full time to a community development foundation that works in impoverished communities. I have had on the side as an outlet for my creative impulses in building things but also as a way to help develop revenue and funds to support our non profit work- see: and

So, we built our first arched “hobbit cottage” as a prototype simply because I loved the eclectic natural cedar look and design. Then we built the 2nd prototype (pics below) with a little diffrerent approach, trying to figure out how to continue the classic look, but in a bit more affordable manner. We have engineered a new “Puzzle – Click” arch system where the whole structural framework of the cottage is produced on a CnC machine (computerized cutting machine) . If you look close at the picture below of the interior arches, you can see a puzzle piece connection that makes each wall-roof-floor system become one very accurate easy to assemble integrated system. each arch is assembled flat on the pre cut floor system, tilted up and screwed or nailed in place. The roof can be either cedar shake shingles or a copper or colored steel roof. Or a combination of both.

One of the primary reasons we have taken this design approach goes back to my work in community development through our non profit, specifically working with the homeless (both in Oregon and in the slum townships of South Africa) . Our goal is to have a very attractive Cottage that can be assembled by teams of volunteers- in something of a “habitat for humanity” approach, although we call it “Habititat for the Homeless” . This approach with our “Digntity Cottages” works for both the arched cottage design and a more traditional “English cottage” design (see picture of grey cottage below). Surpisingly, Oregon has the #1 per capita incidence of homelessness in the U.S. and is #2 in unemployment, after only Michigan.

So, we have felt compelled to launch this affordable line of “Dignity Cottages” that can either be prebuilt and delivered like “park models” (11′ x 24′ – average wholesale available cost $16,500) or they can be shipped in an even more affordable kit form that we hope will attract community groups, churches, non profit service agencies to explore and build creative comfortable transistional housing for the homeless. (average cost $6950) All profits (every penny of any net revenue) after production costs goes to support and help fund our own local homeless initiative and possibly some other community homeless projects in other locations that we help launch.

Our local initiative is called “The Village of Hope” ( which is an eclectic coalition of business sponsors, churches, the local faith community and the Salvaation Army of Oregon. We have been incredibly blessed to have been granted the use of 30+ full hook up RV park spaces at a local RV Park in Salem, Oregon where the compassionate owners are allowing us to install a village of Dignity Cottages. Residents will be screened and recommended through a partnership we have here with the Salvation Army who runs the largest emergency homeless shelter. So as you can see, our heart and passion is to demonstrate that it really does:
“Take a village to raise a homeless family out of poverty.”

My primary hope for your kind exposure about this project in the Tiny House Blog is that it might inspire other people and community groups to launch their own “Village of Hope” . We actually are planning a “Village of Hope Network” that will provide information resources, guidance and possibly even some funding to encourage this in other communities. I also would be available (and welcome the opportunity) to come and speak and share about our experience to any group of community organizers that want to “be the change” in their own communities.

One of the cool things about this paradigm approach to serving the homeless, (and also continually inspired by the Tiny House Blog) is based on the fact that if you are “homeless’ you don’t need an institutional shelter, or a big dorm style living situation, you need a “home”. With the tiny house approach to addressing the homeless epidemic, a homeless family is cared for in a dignified, warm and comfortable cottage that truly can be a home as they work on issues that have led to their homelessness, giving them a step up out of poverty. We anticipate the average time spent in the Village of Hope will be 6 months to a year as a homeless family’s situation stabilizes and improves.

Ok, I have probably thrown too much at you already, but it would be awesome for you to feature this in an upcoming blog.

Blessings to you Kent! anybody wanting to contact me about this can reach me at or 503-581-1838

Joe O’Connor

16 Responses to “Arched Hobbit Cottage – Homeless Initiative”

  1. ginmar says:

    You know, it occurred to me that built in furniture features in small houses would add to the feeling of safety and coziness. You wouldn’t need any freestanding furniture at all.

    These look so nice and attractive.

  2. Mark A says:


    You are doing great work here in Oregon.

    I think your point about having a “home” instead of some bed in an institution is right on. The folks that provided that space in Salem have huge hearts.

    Keep it up!

    • gene landrum says:

      Not to brag, but for insights from my experiences: In the end of the year of 2011 I leased to buy a old abandoned ‘Hospital’ with 4 floors of 10,000sq feet on each floor, this was not counting the Flat Roof, that was structured to have ‘stuff’ build on it!!

      2nd floor, was for Veterans, in transition,(from military/ civilians to hopefulness learning the trades)

      The Veterans, would learn how to convert the second floor to apartments for them (I don’t use ‘Homeless, because we are the Home of the Brave) I also, call the; People in Transition, the Vets in Transition, would help the Third floor be converted into Apartments for the non-vet People in Transition, from poverty to prosperity! No matter how you ‘define’ prosperity?

      That’s two floors, the 4th floor was for ‘people’ that is living in ‘slums’ on a pension or some other entitlement/benefits!

      What about the First Floor, it would contain a ‘Live Theatre’, ‘Live Music’ and Entertainment Center! This floor is about 15,000sq feet with to add bump outs, that the other floors did not have. The rest of the Fist Floor was dedicated to the ‘Inventors’ Group of Coos County!

      In the year of 2013, winter and summer, I had some ‘Volunteers’ stay in the building and the City of Coos Bay, slammed doors with a ‘Unsafe Building’ the prohibited, any one being in the building after 5pm and before 8am! These Volunteers were ‘skilled’ out of work ‘trades people’, that wanted to lend a hand for a hand up!

      Not to bore you, I wish I had this Attorney on my ‘payroll’ as if I had one! Anyway, to close my 501c6, Called; ‘Walk the Talk’ ran smake dab into the Glass Wall around Downtown, (any downtown)that I could not see, only wanted to help, couldn’t go around; (Was required to get a ‘site plan’ done by commercial State approved Architecture person!! (One of the ‘less’ visitor’s I had there was a ‘out of work’ draftsman who make beautiful blue prints that the city would not accept!

      The build is still available, could be up and running for under $150K because all the raw material was donated! When I ask for a ‘building permit’ the planner ask, how much is labor, I replied 0 dollars, she ask the cost of material, I again replied o, she said they can’t issue a permit under $500. to which I ask Why, she said because 12.5% of all Building permits goes to Salem, Or. Needless, to say I did not get a permit!!

      So, you and your group are going to ‘cure homelessness, in Oregon. I would advise you not to come to Coos County, or the Counties Cities! We will gladly send our less??? to your County, City of Eugene with their ‘Calastoga’ Wagons, parking lots dictated to the less????

      This is true to the best of my knowledge, but please, don’t get discouraged by my experiences because I’m doing the same type of housing in the County; Called, a Eco Camp!!

  3. ginmar says:

    A very dear friend of mine used to be homeless, and from what she’s told me, the home first idea is dead on. The scary thing is, lots of organizations demand that people get clean and organized and all that before they give them a bed or a home or anything, when it’s those things that people need in order to get clean!

    Another big plus for these little houses is that they would provide people with an address. They also don’t cost that much. There could be little communities like this!

  4. Kay in KCMO says:

    Would like to see floorplans; didn’t see any on the website, but maybe I missed them.

    Great work. I love seeing things like this; a place to call “home”, even if it’s just temporary, can make a world of difference.

  5. Irene says:

    Really loved this story, your enthusiasm, and your desire to help your fellow man. I shall go to bed on a good note having read this.

  6. Cheryl says:

    Agreed Irene. I have been homeless a couple times because of flood and a crooked landlord so know how it is. God bless and he will.

  7. Peter Engbretson says:

    As a former Portlander who has been away much too long (a quarter century!), has served in the homeless trenches from time to time and has an affinity for small/tiny houses, I feel that this excellent post and the work of Mr. O’Conner and his colleagues merit All Star recognition across the web and the traditional media. And kudos to you, Kent, for your sound editorial judgment in giving top billing to this important initiative!

  8. GREAT work U R Doing… See Pics ROUND Homes and Green-Houses THEY R 4 LAND or WATER – Rogers Earth Ball Home left North carolina in Nov. 09 is NOW in St. Augustine Fla. APRIL 28 2010 Went slowly down the East Coast Intercoastal Waterway, no problum, Later, Roger

  9. Barb says:

    Those arches are so beautiful. There must be a way to keep them visible. They are much too gorgeous to be covered. Show that craftsmanship.

    Thank you for being available to the broken and hurting people in your community.

    You were created for this purpose!

  10. -chase- says:

    Hi – the Tiny House Blog newsletter came and after reading i’m curious on a couple things. ie: have a couple questions…

    Could you post the floor plan of the Arched model?

    and have to ask since i’m thinking about this for something…(brain cells have gears turning)

    What is the gross wight of the Arched Model?
    After it has internal walls – plumbing and fixtures added? A guess-ta-ment would be fine of the Bare bones no added furntiture gross..

    lastly – Can you post what it looks like under the Arched Model? – joists etc – what holds this thing up structurally?

    The jigsaw puzzle joint used for to shear the supports – how strong is that? or is it more for the design factor?

    What insulation is used? – okay i lied i have many more questions – need more info…

    shoot me a line with everything you’ve got and more on the Arched model.

    Attaching a whiskey barrel addition and a wine barrel sauna or guest room and i’d be in hobbit heaven…


    • Kent Griswold says:

      Hi Chase – thanks for all your questions, they are all excellent. I really need you to go to the people who build this model to get the answers to them as I don’t have the answers for you. Contact Joe at and he would be glad to help you.

  11. di says:

    Definitely research the site – for all the additional costs beyond the basic $7,000 exterior shell.

    • Joe says:

      Just a quick note: The cost to build and pricing at the website has no relation to what we can build homeless housing cottages when we work together as a community with volunteer labor, some donated materials, and other helpful resources. If you want to buy an arched Hobbit cottage for yourself, we are happy to deliver one. Just please know that the proceeds goes towards the building of cottage solutions for the homeless. No profit for us – but huge eternal rewards!

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