Shopping Cart Shelter

shopping cart shelter

by Cristo

I like questioning ideas and concepts that most of us take for granted.

We usually accept them as a basis for our mind-frame or for how we are looking at our world and sometimes how we live our lives.

I love twisting things that are so deeply integrated into daily life that we don’t even see them anymore. For me, it’s all about investigating different for common objects. With a little imagination new possibilities are limitless.

Take a stupid shopping cart for instance. Apart from strolling thoughtlessly along sad supermarket-isles what are they good for?

Well, it could turn into a small shack as shown.

And voilà!
This shack could be used as a unit for dreaming, for thinking…Instead of, “Shop shop shop!” I could then turn this into, “Think think think!”

It could also be used as a cheap and decent shelter for homeless people. I like the idea that a consumption-system symbol could be helping those who have been expelled or denied access to the system. And now there’s just one more thing to do. Build it!

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Erik - February 27, 2013

I think this blog is fantastic, and read it often.

But this exemplifies the reason that people with tiny houses have issues with zoning and building construction. Communities are trying to prevent the proliferation fo ramshackle, hastily constructed dumps like this thing.

    jipsi - February 28, 2013

    B J Fisher, I NEVER like leading a reply off with this, but nothing else works: You are mistaken. You ‘understood’ wrong.
    The writer CLEARLY states ‘shopping CART’ (“Take a stupid shopping cart for instance…(clip)… what are they good for? Well, it could turn into a small shack as shown.”
    I felt your comment needed to be addressed as you rather strongly ADMONISHED the rest of us to “People, please, wake up and learn to read!!!”
    when,, in fact, you might want to practice that yourself, perhaps BEFORE you post it, next time.
    No big deal, just a kind nudge-nudge. 😉

      jipsi - February 28, 2013

      if my comment can be MOVED to where it should be, in response to B J Fisher’s most recent (bottom of page) post, please, would you do so? SOMEHOW it wound up here at the top, not at all where it should have went… I AM using a different browser tonight (SeaMonkey) so it may be the culprit … I will not be using it again, that’s for sure (too many other weird little problems and quirks)

    Colleen McLaughlin - March 1, 2013

    I thought the concept interesting. After two days, I decided I want to keep my personal items. I will continue to live in my modular with three bedrooms, two baths, large living room,medium dinning area, galley kitchen, extra large outdoor area. Very easy to heat, and lovely to live in.

    DeWhit - March 1, 2013

    Imagine a street or lot of these type structures ?

    It is not a step forward. It is a parasatic build that adds nothing to its surrounding and does little for the person occupying the structure.

    Lack of housing is usually the secondary issue in the case of the homeless. The lack will continue until the primary issues are addressed.

    In the meantime, this type build leads to shanty towns and hobo villages which just perpetuate and concentrate the problems in a small area.

      Susie - March 2, 2013

      Can we say snob?? This idea is only a temporary situation. Some of you need to be homeless at least once in your miserable lives to get it.

        Erich - March 4, 2013

        I think by not being homeless my life is pretty un-miserable. Can YOU say snob?

    jipsi - March 2, 2013

    By the way, Erik, despite the crazy mis-positioning of my earlier reply (to another comment entirely), I am emphatically in agreement with you. ALthough it’s ‘cute’ seeing what creativity and some upcycled/recycled materials can result in, all should come with the caveat that they are simply for novelty’s sake here, as I believe (and I HOPE this to be true?) the tiny house movement is more to promote the downsizing of our lives into more manageable, smaller-footprint, less complicated smaller spaces (and quality CAN be attained within very modest budgets!) than the – I hate to use this phrase but it IS apt – ‘worst case scenario’ shelters that so many opponents of tiny houses are wont to believe are the ‘rule’ and not the exception…

Ted - February 27, 2013

Doesn’t this work off of the assumption that if a homeless person had the money to build a house, that they would still choose to live in a shopping cart? Seems a little condescending to me. I’m seen numerous “shopping cart homeless shelter projects” and they all just seem like a cruel bid for attention. Homeless people aren’t simply nomadic shopping cart enthusiasts!

Walt Barrett - February 27, 2013

The writer of the article does have a point though. There already are people sleeping under bridges and in junk cars and vans. With a little more thought and imagination there are places in the world where this concept could catch on.
Let’s give it a little more thought before we condemn the idea totally. Look at it from the viewpoint of a homeless person.
That’s all that I’m saying. In just a few more years we are going to get hit by a population bomb and we are going to need every idea we can get because the money just isn’t there.


Skooj - February 27, 2013

Where was the shopping cart? I am amused by the concept of Supermarket Isles though, lol.

steve - February 27, 2013

So where is the shopping cart? Recycling and re-purposing are great values in this society that makes too much useless junk. It would be nice if we would try to build tiny homes with a sense of style and a aspire to build them with craftsmanship. McMansions are often vulgar, so are McShacks. My kids have built cardboard forts that are more appealing and possibly more functional.

Bryan - February 27, 2013

I agree on both points. I love this blog, and feel projects like this end up being detrimental to “the movement.”

Community acceptance of building codes that accommodate smaller homes and frugal living is a desirable goal. I want greater society to hear small/tiny house movement and think “Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Cabin.” This project just makes me think “Hooverville.” I can only imagine what the uninitiated would think.

If I were making the argument AGAINST relaxing building requirements for smaller homes, what better tool for my argument that this picture and the tagline “Don’t let our community look like this.”

Stop handing the opposition their greatest tools.

Deek - February 27, 2013

i think its not detrimental, depending on the location…mid city, yes, its going to be a problem (this place was built a year or so back and quickly ordered to be taken down), but if built in less seen locales, and to benefit the homeless, I’m all for it. Considering the materials at hand, I think its cool/clever. Few are footing any money for the homeless now, so for the sake of aesthetic beauty, chances are that even greater sums of money will never be shelled out for Tumbleweed-like shelters for the homeless, and people will have to get inventive. Time and place…..if something like this were out of sight and helping to keep someone alive, say, like the permitted homeless camp in Portland, OR, I’d have no problem with it.

Deek - February 27, 2013

PS, this scene is getting mean. Please remember that its possible to make a point without being insulting, to the authors, builders, those going out on limbs, and to Kent, a guy kind enough to give projects like this a look. Lets not become the opposition ourselves. Just sayin’. Its not even so much in this post, but in others where I’ve seen some cruel words said about other builders…..words that would NEVER be uttered to someone face to face. There are hard working and friendly people behind many of the projects you see, just try to keep that in mind.

    steve - February 27, 2013

    Deek, there is nothing wrong with this concept, and your point about the need for such structures is well made. I don’t believe that it is inherently mean spirited to critique design and execution of their project. Such criticism should be done thoughtfully, maybe with a light heart and with an attempt to see things improved. Prototyping a concept, i.e. “down and dirty”, to work out the bugs is very useful, but sometimes a little extra effort to present your ideas will better serve the community. This project had some good materials in it in. They just didn’t seem to take into consideration that building it well was important. Slap dash construction is the main justification behind most of our restrictive building codes. If we are ever going to be able to change these codes to allow creative and experimental alternatives to huge expensive homes that are monuments to consumerism, we are going to need to build structures that are worthy of our goals. I have prototyped many projects with cardboard and a hot glue gun, slap some paint on them and they look nice and get the point across. For example, your projects are built with style and flare and on the cheap with lots or re-purposed materials. Unique and funky, they don’t look like they will fall apart if someone were to bump into them. This project missed the mark.

    Bryan - February 27, 2013

    Could you please point out an example of “mean?” All I see are objective, dissenting opinions.

    The concept of “putting one’s self out on a limb” is in itself a position subject to risk (in this case, disagreement.) I applaud their efforts and hope seeing differing opinions will help them hone their ideas and create something amazing.

    There is nothing more useless in the world than blanket praise.

      Deek - February 27, 2013

      hey bryan, please re-read my post, as I said ” not so much in this post”….. ‘Hope you’re all well.

        Bryan - February 28, 2013

        I don’t need to reread. I understood your comment fully and stand behind my reply.

        If your use of the terms ‘mean’ and ‘insulting’ did not apply to the conversation, maybe you should not have applied them to the conversation.

        I choose my words carefully and voice my opinions in an objective fashion. If this blog and it’s inner circle (for which you are a creative and entertaining member of) views differences of opinion as insults, then perhaps I am wasting my time following it.

          Deek - March 3, 2013

          There are a few unnecessarily mean comments here too, but I was also addressing how this is being seen more frequently in many other posts, and often…and differences in opinion are a good thing, I never once said they were not, its just the way that some people approach and word these differences…..they often lack tact and aim for the jugular. Nothing more. Have a good weekend Bryan…’hope you’re well.

    Rebecca - February 27, 2013

    Deek, you mentioned that this may be okay if in a less seen locale? But aren’t most homeless located in the city?

      Deek - February 27, 2013

      Yes, but not in the middle of a street, or a very public area…even the biggest of cities have wooded and more private areas, which is what policy makers will want/insist for fear of complaints, and all the usual worries.

Matt C - February 27, 2013

Reminds me of the artwork of Kevin Cyr — check the top three projects out, might make for a nice post on here too…

Aric - February 27, 2013

I applaud the author’s outside the box thinking.

While I am a little baffled as to how the “shopping cart” plays into the build, I wonder if the shopping cart’s base with wheels is the platform with which the structure has been built?? “The consumption symbol” here is completely missing from the end product??

I would like to know where I can get more information about the author’s project, like how much time, the actual build process, and where some of the materials came from.

We have a number of homeless people in our area that have “customized” shopping carts, a few that can be lived in. Granted they look more like chariots with a roof than a tool shed. But, they are homeless and they have put “effort” into creating their own home much like a real homeowner would.

Wouldn’t a community “homeless build-off” be the coolest thing? Partner residents with homeless for a weekend and see what cool structures they can build.


Erich - February 27, 2013

As others have mentioned, where exactly are the shopping carts? I’m sorry, I am a big fan of tiny houses but this looks like a hunk of garbage, made from trash. Also, the homeless do not purchase the carts they are stolen. I’m sure most local businesses would not be a fan of this “cart shelter” idea. Furthermore there are countless charities and government programs that are put in place in almost every city to help feed, protect and shelter the homeless. This “cart shelter” seems like a very bad idea, especially during a Chicago winter. This might make a decent club house for a kid, but not much more than that.

alice h - February 27, 2013

Glad I’m not the only one that didn’t see a shopping cart, I was starting to think I was losing my marbles. That said, this shelter is totally dependent on it’s contextual environment. You’d have to be somewhat delusional to think you could live in it in many areas but it would work off in the bushes out of sight or among similar makeshift shelters and definitely beats a cardboard box, cheap tent or tarp over branches. It does look a bit flimsy though, probably not very good in any serious weather. It could be made to look “cuter” with minimal effort but the flimsiness is the main barrier to being fully functional housing.

GLENN WRIGHT - February 27, 2013

Here is somemore that he has done …

Walt Barrett - February 28, 2013

This discussion only serves to further point out the serious housing problems that we are facing world wide. What we need is more positive thinking not only in the proper design of micro homes and micro apartments, but also the need for proper sanitation and utilities. It serves no purpose to criticize any idea without offering a reasonable alternative. The key word in all of this is “affordable”.

Debra - February 28, 2013

I was at a family gathering last month, in the middle of a downpour, when a homeless man popped in. He was desperately trying to avoid electrocution by lightening……we had some time to talk, during which he told me his plight, and how he had gone from one bad decision to another and ended up in his situation. I told him about my tiny house, he started dreaming immediately, I could see it in his eyes. He told me he could start small, and build something bigger….. I know it is not practical at the moment, but posts like this do get people thinking, maybe someone will have the means, and the dreams to do something more. And like I always say (in reference to comments about my house), if one does not like how a tiny house is built, then FIX it, and do it better when YOU build one.

    Garth - March 1, 2013

    That’s exactly the problem I see around us in our area. There are people who, some for legitimate reasons, are homeless, and the police or sheriff’s deputies chase them out of every place they try to get some rest. “I can’t let you stay here” is what they keep hearing. How are they supposed to get back on their feet? A motel room or apartment costs too much, and the shelters have waiting lists and only allow people to stay for short times, say a month. Basically, it’s illegal to be homeless, but there’s no allowance for them to get out of that situation. Even if we wanted to help someone by allowing them to live in a tent in our back yard and use a bathroom that’s accessible without coming into our house, it would be illegal. We did actually think about doing that recently for someone whose health put him out of commission for a while but he just got a full-time job and it would take time to save enought money for the first and last month’s rent and security deposit to get into an apartment.

    I can’t find it right now, but I thought I had bookmarked a video of a tiny shelter that wasn’t much bigger than a pair of shopping carts placed end to end would be. It was long enough to have a bed, storage for a few clothes, an itty-bitty water tank and sink, and that’s about it. It might have been seven feet long and three or four feet high, and rolled on casters so it could be pushed around by hand with a handle on the end like a shopping cart has. It would be much easier for someone with no vehicle to move than taking down a tent and packing up its contents. It could be locked too.

B J Fisher - February 28, 2013

Why all the questions about shopping carts? What I understood is that the shelter was made from what used to be a shelter for shopping carts.
People, please, wake up and learn to read!!!

    steve - February 28, 2013

    Sorry B J but you are mistaken the following is taken from the story “Take a stupid shopping cart for instance. Apart from strolling thoughtlessly along sad supermarket-isles what are they good for?” No where does it talk about shelters for shopping carts, which in my travels covering most of the states and a dozen other countries I can’t remember ever seeing a shelter for the ubiquitous water resistant chrome grocery buggies. Even so it would have been one ugly shopping cart shelter.

      Gene Wallen - March 1, 2013

      Not exactly a supermarket, Menards thoughout the midwest has shelter for their carts, not pretty but effective. The carts cost about $150 each.

B J Fisher - February 28, 2013

Where I live, some supermarket chains do have shelters for shopping carts. Those carts are expensive and they deteriorate quickly when exposed to the elements. Who wants to use a
dripping-wet cart or a rusty one?

I guess I was misled by the title of the article in question. I have viewed the video twice and cannot see a shopping cart in the construction of the shelter.

    Bryan - March 1, 2013

    How does that foot taste?

    jipsi - March 2, 2013

    B J Fisher, I NEVER like leading a reply off with this, but nothing else works: You are mistaken. You ‘understood’ wrong.
    The writer CLEARLY states ‘shopping CART’ (“Take a stupid shopping cart for instance…(clip)… what are they good for? Well, it could turn into a small shack as shown.”
    I felt your comment needed to be addressed as you rather strongly ADMONISHED the rest of us to “People, please, wake up and learn to read!!!”
    when,, in fact, you might want to practice that yourself, perhaps BEFORE you post it, next time.
    No big deal, just a kind nudge-nudge. 😉
    – jipsi

    Apologies to my THB fellow-members that this appears TWICE in the comments… something happened while posting it, originally, and it wound up, quite INAPPROPRIATELY!, just after Erik’s post near the top… I had hoped Kent, or the moderator (whoeer is watching and approving the comments) would have READ MY post-note concerning this and fixed the problem… oh well. They posted the whole bob-boo, instead. Hope this didn’t disturb the ‘flow’ too badly… I know it kind of took the impact out of MY response to BJ FIsher’s post, though, for me, anyway.

Do nag - March 1, 2013

I thought the point was to make a shelter out of items that are usually taken for granted, things that are ” hiding in plain sight”.
I work in an area of St. Louis where shopping carts are a frequent mode of transporting one’s things. I could totally see this as shelter especially when what mostly happens in this area is abandoned houses which attract multiple folks, not necessarily which are a separate concern regarding ones own safety.

Ferocious - March 1, 2013

This is a chicken house at best. An eyesore for sure. Nonsense

    Colleen McLaughlin - March 1, 2013

    Dear ferocious, I agree 100 percent. Plus I certainly think it is very unsafe. Not even clever or smart. If I were homeless, I would prefer to sleep under a bridge then this. So called shelter. More then likely I would go to a homeless shelter.

cristo - March 2, 2013

This definitely was a prototype for anyone to improve and/or elaborate on.We are so sorry we don’t have wonderful design skills and stunning building abilities as you guys outstanding tinyhousers.More humbly the project was just a place given free of charge to anyone who needed or wanted a place for the day, the night or just a few moments.And too bad for the condescending well educated well fed well heated ones who think it’s an eye-sour.Project was also meant as an experiment.What would happen if a shelter was left randomly for anyone to move in?The police soon ordered it to be destroyed.Exactly like most of you guys did on this blog.You should be happy such an horror does not exist anymore unlike loneliness homelessness and misery.

Judy - March 2, 2013

Cristo, I for one think you must have a big heart. So many people don’t even think about the homeless because it doesn’t affect them. This is a subject near and dear to you I can tell. This as you stated was just a prototype, so if people expected it to be the final edition they would be disappointed. Please don’t be discouraged because unlike those who have put your idea down, at least you are thinking about and trying to help the homeless.Until people have walked in their shoes they have no idea of the struggle these people face.Many people are but a couple of paychecks from being homeless, it is not only from alcohol or drug abuse. Please know that your idea has merit even if some others can’t see it!

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