Tiny House Discrimination And Discouragement

“If you wanna live in a tiny house, it’s ’cause you done gave up. You’re stupid.”

The words echoed for days in the tiny house subconscious. Threads with literally hundreds (maybe thousands by now) addressed the video. But I think it is safe to say the most immediate wave of guffaw has cleared since Steve Harvey – comedian, television host, radio personality, and talk show host – chose to “discuss” (and I use the word loosely…..very loosely, mind you) tiny houses. Himself – a man reinvented from the son of a coal miner who has worked as a boxer, an autoworker, an insurance salesman, a carpet cleaner, and a mailman, to his current persona as Renaissance gentleman with common sense, a great sense of humor, and a certain humility – Harvey has become a sort of celebrity du jour recently after his debacle with the Miss Universe pageant and subsequent apology. His moment was just getting started though as he chose to publicly take on the tiny house movement in his #TrendingTopics monologue. But did that moment rub people the wrong way because of just his words and attitude or has Harvey stumbled across a sort of ‘villain behind the cloak’; a scenario wherein Shaggy and Scooby uncover for us a heart of discrimination and discouragement that seems to have been festering under the very skin of the tiny house community? I’ll let you decide.

Allow me to ask these questions though. Why do we listen to celebrities? Why do we treat them as experts on topics well out of their wheelhouse? Example.

I think Peyton Manning is a fine quarterback. He might even be one of histories best. He seems like a gentleman and a real leader. He is handsome and of good build. But understand this. Peyton Manning is a football player. I do not want him to be the president of the United States. Likewise I don’t truly care to hear his politics. When I am not feeling well I go to the doctor. When my household appliances are on the fritz, I call the Maytag man. When I want a better understanding of political actions in Syria or the state of illegal immigration around the Canadian border I want to hear from a diplomat or an academic mind. Yet somehow on so many topics in our culture the media is more than happy to offer celebrities a platform to speak their mind, often unfiltered!

A couple months back Sean Penn took a few days to seek out and interview El Chapo and suddenly he became a focal point for helping capture El Chapo and as an authority on the drug war being waged in Mexico and at the United States border. For nearly a week Penn was given top billing by Rolling Stone, CBS News, ABC News, NBC News, the NY Times, and dozens of other outlets. And that is just one example. I can easily think of more famous people who talk about everything from childhood vaccinations to ISIS to the state of the Catholic church as if they are an expert simply because some media outlet allows them to. Then the media polishes the arguments up and serves them to us – a consuming culture – that regards them as fine China with some stake in the game. Thus is exactly the case with Steve Harvey.

Let me point out two things.

  1. Steve Harvey is a co-producer of his own show and therefore has to have some say in his topics. He isn’t given a topic to talk about “just because.”
  2. Steve Harvey has a well documented history of dropping out of school, being fired from jobs, and living in his car rendering him essentially homeless.

Harvey points out as much. The bottom left corner of the video screen shows he is on the Steve Harvey Show. It is HIS show. Let me reiterate that. It is HIS show. It is not the Andrew Odom show or the Tiny House Blog Show. It is the Steve Harvey Show. At 1:07:00 Harvey states, “See, I’ve been homeless before…” He frames his statements with the fact that he has lived in his car before; a tiny space. At that point I personally laughed off everything he had said prior including the phrase “raggedy baby doll looking house” and his suggestion of me needing to “get a bigger damned dream.” I giggled thinking about Harvey waking up one morning and pulling out his dapper suit from the backseat of a ’67 Volkswagon. I thought, Steve has lived in a tiny space. He gets it. He knows that it isn’t for everyone. He gets that society might see it as a negative. It’s all good. But then he just starts digging.

At 1:30:00 he argues that tiny houses are for people who have given up; who have no faith. I could feel myself tuning out at that very second. By 1:45:00 at “why would I put on my vision board….” I had stopped hearing anything he was saying. I don’t buy into the whole vision board thing and having a comedian turned talkshow host turned cue card bumbler tell me about his personal vision and dream within the framework of the Holy Bible (Harvey’s reference to Habakkuk 2:2) while calling another vision stupid or one who lacks vision stupid was just off-putting. But, the video ended, my life moved forward, and I all but forgot about what I had seen. In fact, the only comment I made was in a short TXT message to my wife with a link to the video. I didn’t make a public statement or write Harvey or anything. I chalked it up as a celebrity who had been given a platform to talk about something he has no real authority to talk about.

Another person. Another opinion.

But then something happened.

On Feb. 8 at 12:33pm a member of the Tiny House People group on Facebook posted the video and posed the question: “What do you think about what Steve Harvey said today about Tiny Houses?” Followed by a comment of their own the original poster added “Perhaps we should educate him and the public.” My first thought? Why? Does it really matter? Did I publicly cry out when Kanye West….well, said anything really. No. I just tuned out. If I want to hear tiny house philosophy I will gather my information from people considered authorities and academics on the subject such as Jay Shafer, Dee Williams, Deek Diedricksen, Kent Griswold, and others. I won’t waste time listening to the likes of Steve Harvey. Not all took that stance though. In fact, the more than 300 comments that fell under that initial question seemed to expose a nasty, vitriolic temperament that I didn’t believe existed in the tiny house community.

“I use to really like Steve Harvey, but this hurt my feelings.”

“He is uneducated…and materialistic..he has no values.”

“this guy is an a**hole”

I was honestly surprised by what I was reading. Had Steve Harvey and his opinion really bring an entire community to a place of name-calling and, dare I say, discrimination and discouragement? Were we now saying that Harvey himself is stupid? Did we allow him to hurt our feelings? If so, why? Do we really care that much about what a celebrity who has overcome what he feels was his own bout with homelessness, achieved financial success, and pursued his own dreams? Are we really willing to dismiss him because he chose to speak out again what our dreams are? I honestly don’t know. I know this though. This newfound caring of celebrity authorities is based in the devaluation of actual expertise. It is akin to a future where The Wall Street Journal is run by Jack Black. I beg of us all. Let’s not go there. If we want to truly educate the public and the likes of Steve Harvey let’s pour out our ambition in the right places.

Today, this week, this month, even this year, I challenge you to take the passion that Harvey may have evoked in you and put it towards something that will enhance your life or bring you closer to your personal dream. Don’t allow anyone – much less a celebrity – to hijack your energy or your vision. It isn’t worth it. That’s just, well, “stupid!”

By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]

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Kurt - March 2, 2016 Reply

It should be said that Harvey’s rant is supposed to be humorous. He’s overstating the case for humorous purposes. I personally think the best humor only criticizes things that deserve to be criticized, but that it sadly not how most comedians work today. Just watch any late night monologue.

Rhi - March 2, 2016 Reply

Steve Harvey is wilfully uninformed and vile, and has repeatedly shown his willingness to display his ignorance and spew bile at other minorities (e.g. atheists, LGBTQ people, et al), not just those who choose tiny homes.

I don’t disagree with the writer for the most part, but it is not a waste one’s energy to confront ignorance and bigotry, especially when such ignorance incites others to perpetuate it through discrimination and violence. Misinformation needs to be confronted and corrected or the uninformed may assume that false statements are true because they went unchallenged.

By violence, I’m referring to (though there are other examples) the city of Los Angeles’s decision to target, confiscate and destroy tiny homes built for the homeless *outside* the city under the false pretenses of “safety” and “fire hazards”. Their shelters are destroyed, but the city has not done anything to replace them or provide new homes for people.

Michelle - March 2, 2016 Reply

My initial reaction to Steve Harvey’s remarks was akin to the reaction of a mother who’s heard someone overtly criticize her child. And, therein lies the difference between myself (and my tiny house) and “normal” people who buy “normal” houses. I was defensive. I have put so much of myself into my tiny house that it is very very difficult for me to separate myself from comments made about my house. It is truly, like a child….labor and all! After seeing the video, and a walk around the block to more fully understand my reaction, I reached out to Steve and invited him to engage in an actual conversation about tiny houses. I “suggested” to him that my house was not, by any stretch of the imagination; stupid. When I did not get a reply (no surprise there) I decided then and there that it was a moment to learn from, to remember (not fondly) and to build on. His comments were somewhat hurtful to the tiny house community at large but like anyone who bullies our own, we rallied and are perhaps closer because of it. We are passionate, we are dedicated, and we understand that his comments were made from a position of ignorance. Yep. He didn’t get it. He doesn’t “get” us. But. Many don’t. And that’s OK.

alice h - March 2, 2016 Reply

Celebrities. Meh. I had no idea who the guy was, still don’t really. If he wants to get all silly about something that’s fine with me. The sad things are some people’s over the top reactions and the unfortunate negative bias he may cause in some people who might otherwise have discovered the joys of tiny houses. Of course if you let somebody else’s opinions influence you to that degree perhaps a person might need to work a bit on their self confidence.

SteveCampsOut - March 3, 2016 Reply

He doesn’t represent my Christ that is for sure.

SteveCampsOut - March 3, 2016 Reply

His views certainly don’t represent my Christ’s views on faith. I’m familiar with his bullying tactics however and don’t think he deserves the respect of a response.

Sean Martin - March 8, 2016 Reply

It’s all part of that “success is determined by the size of your d**k” mentality that seems to permeate modern culture these days.

Harvey is successful, no question about it. But so is McDonalds. Let that sink in a bit. 🙂

Jess - March 8, 2016 Reply

I thought it was damn funny. And I live in a tiny space with my girlfriend. We do fine. Let’s just have some confidence that we are doing what we believe is right for us so when we hear criticism it’s okay, we don’t take it personally or get threatened or defensive. A lot of people are still.chasing the “American dream”. Just because I gave up on that, bc I think it’s a grand illusion doesn’t mean others have to do the same. There is room for all of us and if we can’t accept some fun poked our way then we need to look in the mirror and do some self examination. There other forms of discrimination much worse. From what I can see of the TH most of us are white people so right there we have a lot.of privilege to think about. Sure it’s an uphill battle to legalize our situation and be accepted. I live totally illegally in my town. But come on people, our problems are so minor compared to the discrimination people of color face, GLBTQ people, elderly, even women still get discrimated against. Let’s relax and just do our thing. It’s not gonna happen overnight but it IS happening and we are doing great some powerful role modeling in our world.

Well, that’s my two cents. Love to you all for making TH real!

Lynn - March 8, 2016 Reply

Amen.

Tim - March 8, 2016 Reply

It’s just another persons opinion and doesn’t seem worth all the big todo it is causing. Tiny House users constantly speak out against large houses and all the waste and expense related to them and criticize the Large Footprint lifestyle. Tit for Tat and just another opinion; Life goes on.
I like Tiny Houses and I like Steve Harvey and I’m not gonna let a difference of opinion ruin my day.

jojo - March 8, 2016 Reply

I saw this on the Show, I watch Steve Harvey almost every time the show is, on. As a Tiny house person who has dreamed of a tiny home
for a long while was a little saddened by the statement people who want these have no dream. Here is my Dream, because I have not gave up and because of my mature years, it has took me this long to realize what is truly important in life. Not things, not a huge foot print, freedom, freedom is important to me, If I can make my dream of tiny come true I think I could prove all these statements of giving up, as false. If I could have a place big enough for me and my grand sleep overs, a place to kick back at the end of the day and un wind with a little front porch, and a place to sleep and cook……I would have more time for others, more time to do things I love, lower my bills, and also work in my tiny art studio, which is my dream to. Not giving up,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,living my dream………

Mary Ann - March 8, 2016 Reply

I think what Steve Harvey said was hurtful to many. He has no right to squish someone else’s dreams. Just because we can’t afford or want a HUGE house doesn’t mean we gave up – it means we realized what really matters in life and it isn’t material things. It’s more time to spend life in a quality way. Who wants to pay tons of taxes? Who wants to work 2 and 3 jobs just to make ends meet to have a big house, expensive car, lots of toys and things we really don’t need. People have become too attached to material things and if you can break away from that thinking you have won. I’m trying to break away from that. I hate working so much and not being able to give my kids what they want because of all the bills I have. I want to downsize, minimalize and have less bills so I can spend more time with my family and friends doing things that make me happy not working 60 plus hours a week and more. I used to work 90 to 100 hours a week – not anymore. I just wish I could speed up my willingness to let go of material things. I guess I place too much of a dollar value on them and don’t want to just give them away but some things I will just have to if I want to get to my goal faster: a Tiny house on wheels with solar power, wind power, rechargeable battery power, pedal generated power, composting toilet, recycled water filtration system, no house phone, no cable tv – the simple life to be able to enjoy life before you retire. Who knows how long you have to live and enjoy life.

shirley brooke - March 8, 2016 Reply

I feel the tiny house movement and people who like this idea, are more in-tuned to life and reality. They aren’t materialists, they want to experience what God or energy force, if you will, has provided for us here on earth, and have a respect for the earth an life. Many others are brained-washed into the DEBT CAPITOLIST life, they are sheep being lead by the elite (1%) who only care about themselves. I sometimes wish there were no monies or currencies in the world, and we bartered or worked together. Tiny house people are on a slower train enjoying the smell of roses as we make our way to our end, Others are on a fast train to no where and end which will have no positive experience in life.

Susan Martin Lesnik - March 8, 2016 Reply

Great article! Thank you.

Jet Tilton - March 8, 2016 Reply

I want a tiny house but I think the persecution comes more from local City governments than Steve Harvey! If you prefer a non-traditional structure (tiny house, Yurt, dome house, shipping container, or any type of structure in Lloyd Kahn’s books) you are prohibited in most areas! I live in the DFW area, and with corporations moving their HQs here, rents are going up and farm/ranch land is being razed for BIG homes for high-income families!!! We need a comprehensive guide (state by state) to where we can live without being evicted from land, etc…..

narayani - March 8, 2016 Reply

My serious response: In a short while, the people who will have proven to be the smartest, wisest, and free-est will be those who have downsized, simplified, purified….Hard times ahead. Crash of ’08 is said to be just the prelude. Then we’ll see what ppl’s vision boards look like. Or maybe out of necessity they will have to take a tiny house, which is probably the negative version of what SH is thinking of. Either way. Wonderful option. We all know it.
My sarcastic response: Who needs to listen to someone who made such a bad blunder on Live TV. Not only that…but he always has an angry, disgusted look on his face. Maybe his vision board should include a new look, b/c this one will not win him Mr. Universe for sure 🙂

    Andrew M. Odom - March 9, 2016 Reply

    I can no longer here the term “vision board” without giggling. I have this mental image of a science project and some lame experiment regarding the effect of music on plants or something inconsequential like that.

Joan - March 9, 2016 Reply

I totally agree with what you said Andrew. The fact that we as individuals give credence to anything said by a celebrity gives less meaning to our own thoughts. Most actors (not all by any means, but most) have not college education at all, and many did not even graduate high school, yet they are very vocal about their politics, etc. and expect the common individual to pay homage to their opinion. These people, no matter that their day job is truly “make believe” think they can influence the masses by their individual philosophies. Personally, I wish they would kept their opinions to themselves. I don’t care to know what the Tim Robbins of the world think about any subject. But, because of their notoriety, the so called reports stumble over themselves to get opinions from these people. The only stupid people in these scenarios are the ones who really listen and take to heart what these individuals have to say. What ever happened to independent thinkers? I can answer my own question, but that leads to a another topic not appropriate for for this venue. Live large in you Tiny and be proud of your choice. God Bless.

    Andrew M. Odom - March 9, 2016 Reply

    Thank you so much for your response Joan. I appreciate it and I couldn’t agree with you more!

john - March 9, 2016 Reply

There is a large number of poor people looking at tiny as an alternative, not because it’s environmentally sound or energy efficient, but because it’s cheap…or should be in their minds…these are the same people who post negative comments on expensive tiny homes that run 40-80k…the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, even the lazy slackers who think the whole tiny house evolution was made for them…and it wasn’t. Sure there have always been travel trailers and older mobile homes that have typically been the province of the poor but the misconceptions they have about tiny homes is annoying after a while.
It’s also annoying and humorous to hear the outrage of people who learn that you simply can’t park one just anywhere and live in it…housing for low income people and the entire rental industry is worth billions in the US alone, no one will be allowed to mess with that kind of power and wealth, no one. The industry controls the decision makers with influence that can’t be matched by a minority group looking to change an industry. Even if every fan of tiny homes gathers on the lawns of the white house we wouldn’t have the influence of an entire industry whose fortune is reliant on people paying rent and keeping things as they are.
I wonder just how many look at tiny homes from the position of economic defeat, unemployment, disability, low incomes, etc…or just the hope of getting out of the rental market trap? I think those are most of the people who make angry posts about the cost of having a tiny home built ready to live in by a builder…and i think most of those people looking at tiny from that point of view would find they can’t handle actually living tiny, it isn’t for everyone, it isn’t even for me anymore but it was a decade ago when i first got involved in the concept.
I think the national average for a studio apartment with utilities is about a thousand dollars a month, half that in some places and twice that in others, it puts even that out of reach for most people on social security or welfare. Tiny houses are not going to be any cheaper than that…unless you build it yourself with found or donated materials….and they will still have a legal battle to live in them in most places.
Really, tiny homes are an intentional lifestyle choice for whatever reason you have…and it won’t be easy or cheap to do. If you can understand that going into it then you will not be shocked or disappointed, you will be prepared for it all and have the drive to defend your choices…you’ll also have an income capable of supporting your choice.

Taylor P. - March 12, 2016 Reply

At the end of the day, who cares what Mr.Harvey says? He’s an “entertainer” who makes money by generating controversy and bloviating on the spin and churn that results. He needs a defensive and negative response to keep his viewers entertained. Very appropriate for the Oprah Winfrey/Dr Phil/Ellen daytime t.v. audience. Not my cup of tea, but some folks just lap it up. Let him make all the insulting and uninformed comments that he wants, I’ll just continue to love life in my 250 sq ft house and continue to love all the travel and adventure that not having a huge rent/house payment every month affords me. I do find myself wondering if Mr Harvey doesn’t have some vested interest or financial connection to the real estate/housing/mortgage industry though. The most negative responses I get to tiny houses always comes from land(slum)lord,real estate agents, and mortgage brokers/banks. Those who have a vested financial interest in keeping people tied down to exploitative mortgage loans or ridiculous rents for barely habitable dwellings. Interesting point too is that most city councils or planning commissions have more than a few representatives of those industries. Seems like a pretty common reason for municipal hostility to tiny houses.

Peter - March 13, 2016 Reply

You all really need to develop thicker skin. You all rushed head long into being offended. Includes you too Andrew.
I dont think this can be cited as discrimination. A comedian used hyperbole to get a few laughs and express an opinion about an idea he doesnt subscribe too. He is limiting his opinions to house size and isnt directly attacking tiny living principles (simplification, debt management, etc)
Did he mean to discourage? Sure, because he believes going tiny (1/10th the avg norm size), living in a miniscule structure, is a bad idea. He sites a few reasons many dont subscribe to (the whole prosperity theology). So be it, its just his opinión on his show and he does need to take heroic measures to defend it.
But in the end, some of you have concluded living in a tiny structure isnt ideal either. Even the writer of the article ( Andrew) is now attempting to live at about 1/3rd the avg norm size ínstead of 1/10th.
I read this article and thought, Seriously, you’re giving this press? You are all sounding like victims and Ive yet to find the crime. Toughen up or no one will ever take you seriously.

B.K. Lamb - March 18, 2016 Reply

Andrew, your statement, “uncover for us a heart of discrimination and discouragement that seems to have been festering under the very skin of the tiny house community?” Yes, this is a time to check our hearts, laugh and keep on dancing!!!!

Kate - April 5, 2016 Reply

Okay, enough with This Steve dude. Who has signed the petition asking that they please not make tiny house living illegal? Have you all signed? We have to ban together to be heard.

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