Han’s Mobile Shelters and Designs

Guest post by Hans Runge

It basically doesn’t agree with the way of living at the moment. I assume it started the moment I started squatting, I only took the most important things for me to become more flexible. On the side it made me think about why one house felt more comfortable and gave more freedom then the other.

Even though squatting is illegal these days more then 1/3rd of the office spaces are empty, which is pretty embarrassing if you think of the housing problem. I would like to see that the town would let people into those buildings and let them create their own space/house in these big empty structures. All those people have to rethink about what is important in dwelling for them (and not the architect), which will not only result in a very personal place but also in a more dynamic type of architecture that I encourage.

The works which I’ve sent are direct results of my ideas of living and my fascination for tiny spaces and shelters. The only thing I might have to add about them, is that the red tube ‘bed’ is different from the original idea. I first wanted it to be an existing ventilation shaft in the art academy in which I was studying at that time. But it was still in use and I was not allowed to cut a big hole in it to put my mattress in it. Never the less I still want to know how it is to sleep in a ventilation shaft.

The cargo-bike-house is a real house which contains three small rooms, and even though it is pretty heavy it is possible to drive with it.

Hans Runge writes from the Netherlands and you can learn more about him at his website www.hansrunge.nl.

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heidi - December 20, 2011 Reply

These seem quaint, but with technology etal, there should be enough heat and electricity for everyone. there is no reason to compress ourselves to such a small place

    David Reed - December 20, 2011 Reply

    very true Heidi, but that’s not the world we live in, when a large portion of our people have nothing this would be their everything.

      cj - December 21, 2011 Reply

      Well said. A ‘space’ is a huge improvement over nothing.

Tori - December 20, 2011 Reply

Small is one thing, squatting is another.

Those buildings that Hans would like to see opened to squatters do actually belong to someone, not the city. And unfortunately, perhaps, squatters do not have the best reputation when it comes to caring for the property that they choose to inhabit (see the Occupy movement-granted an extreme). I can understand property owners wanting to protect their investment.

The beauty of the small house movement, for me, is not reflected in “squatting” or a mindset that assumes that empty property should be everyone’s property”

    Shea - December 20, 2011 Reply

    I agree with you, Tori…
    There is a fine line between ‘tiny house’ living and outright ‘homeless shack/shelter’ ideas.
    The ‘tiny house’ movement is a mode of ‘smaller home living’ by CHOICE, and, hopefully, the person involved intends to be respectful of others’ property, mindful of laws and act as a positive representative of the ‘tiny house’ ideal – not as a VICTIM!
    Although I find some of the ‘ideas’ posted here are extraordinary and resourceful (and especially helpful when one thinks of ways to address homelessness-by-disaster or refugees of war), some venture into an area that almost glorifies vagrancy (how much can I get/do on nothing?).
    I HOPE no one reading here EVER has to consider any of the above (or certain other ‘designs’ for homeless seen here before), and and ESPECIALLY hope no one here ever CHOOSES to live as a ‘homeless-person-with-a-tiny-house’!

    Speaking for many more than myself, I am quite aware that many of us are one box of macaroni shy of homelessness ourselves, but, God Forbid, if it were to happen I would NOT want to consider making it anything but a temporary, few days on a friend’s couch or on a cot at the local mission thing: to even consider making it a ‘permanent/semi-permanent’ state, albeit cleverly, is not conducive to the more positive goal of ‘getting back on one’s feet’!

    I’m absolutely okay with seeing the ‘ideas’ here, but hope readers understand the differences between the ‘tiny house/small house’ movement, and the (yes, creative) suggestions-in-addressing-those-already-homeless track.
    Because I worry that we’ll start seeing otherwise-intelligent, clever young people ‘choosing’ to live-for-free (or almost) in one of these utra-high-functioning little box/pallet/tarp/pipe ‘homes’, all so they can either ‘choose’ to not work at all for a living, or work as little as possible!
    I had enough trouble, as it was, motivating my teenager to work a full-time job so he could get COMPLETELY out on his own (his post-high-school graduation idea of ‘home’ (ie: necessities) for awhile was couch, snacks and video games! LOL), without him pointing something like the above out to me:
    “See, Mom? I could just roll this around to where ever I’d like, hook up to someone else’s electric, eat at the soup kitchen, and do whatever I wanted with my time, the rest of my life, without having to punch a time card for someone else, EVER!”


    Sorry this sounded like a rant (it’s not, just a wee bit of concern, as I said, about that ‘fine line’ thing), I just hope there are more of us here who envision a ‘tiny home’ life in our futures (or present!) as the low-footprint, eco-friendly and life-enhancing choice it is (and should be), not a last-resort ‘design-your-homeless-box now, while you have a few bucks’ campaign… 😉

    I think it’s amazing, seeing how little one really needs, to get by on, and how much living can be addressed in something-so-little, and that emergency shelters for refugees/homeless can be approached in a way that might mean, someday, that no one will ever have to be without some kind of safe and dry (albeit cramped) shelter.
    I just prefer to think of the ‘tiny house/small house’ movement as a POSITIVE advocacy of ‘better living through pared-down homes’, rather than the NEGATIVE advocation of ‘join the homeless with a cool, tiny-tiny home’…
    Because ‘squatting’ (or ‘occupying’) IS homeless, regardless of whether one has a cardboard box, or a deluxe hermit shack (no offense, D! 😉 ), to sleep in at night.

Gene Wallen - December 20, 2011 Reply

Hans should use his time and talent for something both constructive and legal.

    Neroy - December 20, 2011 Reply

    In the first place, what he is doing IS constructive and legal. In the second place, the legality of the entire small house movement, due to building codes, is already in question.

    What you are really voicing is disapproval of homelessness.

      Josh - December 21, 2011 Reply

      …the legality of the entire small house movement, due to building codes, is already in question.


        Neroy - December 21, 2011 Reply


          LT - December 21, 2011 Reply

          Neroy, trying to combat stupidity on the internet is like Aunt Sally trying to mop back the tide. Just let Copernicus here do the math.

          Josh - December 21, 2011 Reply


          I guess you don’t understand what “legality” means…

          Willy - December 21, 2011 Reply

          So, Josh, are you saying a person could buy a lot in almost any area of the U.S., build a 100 square foot cabin on the lot, and take up permanent residence there without legal complications? Why do you think people build tiny houses on trailers? It’s not just about mobility, it’s about getting around local codes which do not allow for permanent residency in a tiny house.

          If you are going to join the conversation, please pay attention.

        Athena - December 26, 2011 Reply


        For example, some municipalities have even enacted minimum living room size requirements of hundreds of square feet. This has been tested at the US supreme court level as being unconstitutional exclusionary zoning (it excludes the building of modestly-sized homes, and therefore lower-income folks), but it failed the test, meaning the supreme court found such minimum size requirements constitutional.

        This kind of language in building codes makes legal tiny house construction impossible on its face, hence putting them on trailers.

        However, I find your incredulity normal at the confrontation that building tiny homes is illegal in some places. Why is it illegal? It seems to me contrary to Jeffersonian ideals of what democracy should be. I am investigating this on my own at the moment – some of these laws are legitimate – albeit sometimes archaic – attempts at preserving public health and safety, while others are thinly veiled aggressive tactics to keep poor people out of exclusive communities, which belies an underlying assumption that poor people live in small houses, and rich people live in big ones.

        It is interesting material, and the laws vary greatly from place to place, and also reveal a great deal about the people who run these communities.

      Gene Wallen - December 21, 2011 Reply

      I certainly am against homelessness,I think everybody should have one.If you don`t want one that`s OK too.

        Neroy - December 21, 2011 Reply

        I see what you did there.

alice h - December 20, 2011 Reply

If other ways of living in a space were considered besides the traditional apartment/hotel/rooming house models it could happen that a municipality could lease or buy some of these office spaces and provide room for alternative housing experiments without people having to squat illegally. Unfortunately many experiments fail because some people take advantage of the situation and mess it up for those who are genuinely interested in making it work.

alice h - December 20, 2011 Reply

Oh, and that first fanned out canopy gave me a great idea for a backyard play space for my granddaughter. I’d use lightweight pvc pipe instead of wood though. Also gave a good idea for a rainy day canopy over my outdoor laundry sink.

Owen - December 20, 2011 Reply

Look to the flip side of the office space – small ground rent per floor allows a tennancy agreement to be in place, and controls on how the provided enclosed space is used, there is a company in the UK that does exactly this, as a security feature for unoccupied buildings to prevent them getting trashed.

Sarah - December 20, 2011 Reply

I like the idea of the bicycle one. I’ve seen a few variations on the bike camper/home idea. The question would be how to make it easy to pull around.

Barb - December 20, 2011 Reply

I’m torn.

I don’t like the idea of allowing “legal squatting” in buildings, just because they are there. Affordable housing is a problem that needs a permanent solution. I think we can do better for the homeless, the poor and the working poor than to put them in makeshift, impermanent housing that increases their alienation from mainstream society.

Alternatively, it is certainly better than sleeping under a bridge.

Anita - December 20, 2011 Reply

I have actually seen almost the EXACT replica of design #1 in use, when the Dunkin Donuts next to where I work took their awning down and tossed it behind the building and our local homeless man flipped the awning on its side and against the building. I remember thinking, good for him, smart use of its natural shape. But I also think that if I were suddenly homeless I’d much prefer a tent- same amount of shelter but MUCH more portable- I’ve even seen multi room tents which would still be lighter and more flexible and comfortable than the “3 room” bicycle design. Creative in a brainstorming kind of way but I don’t think any of these designs are an improvement on what already exists.

Ani.B - December 20, 2011 Reply

Ok, I have seen these types of designs for a while through various blogs related to Tiny. While I applaud the motive of housing the house-less, as a person who formerly found themselves in such a position, I feel the real issues are not structural. For one, I question the ownership of some of these items may tend to make one more of a target to potential thieves, and if you HAVE one, you must be able to KEEP one. Secondly, along the same lines, it seems to me that if a person were to sleep in some of these micro cabins with minimal protection, it could again draw unwanted attention to “stuff” and result in the loss of said stuff, not to mention put one’s life in jeopardy.

    Athena - December 25, 2011 Reply

    True Dat!

BrotherT - December 21, 2011 Reply

Didn’t Deek put up a design that was somewhat wheelbarrow shaped? I think it used a 5 gallon water container for a window? He put it out there as being temporary shelter for homeless, or at least I think he did from what I remember of the video.

It seems that the concern here isn’t with homeless people, but squatting as a solution for the housing shortage.

But like a lot of the commentators here, I am concerned with the distinction between homelessness and squatting. Respect for property rights, at least in Western cultures, are one of the hallmarks of society. Unfortunately, that doesn’t alway jive well with the very real need for shelter for people that lack it.

    Ani.B - December 21, 2011 Reply

    Hey Bro T!

    I am not saying that I am for squatting in any way. My comment was not made as a reply to anyone because it was slightly off the topic of squatting.

    I think the zeal of Deek and Hans and another couple of guys is admirable to help those without shelter. Perhaps my comment is just me shouting to the wind with no one but the echo to hear, but my point is that homelessness is MORE than lack of house. It is a whole litany of issues that involve safety, outlook and a variety of situations. Every time I see a pic of a guy pushing a wooden cart full of groovy stuff, I think of the next guy coming to relieve him of this stuff.

    Remember, if the move of tiny is against “stuff” then perhaps making low cost “stuff keepers” for the homeless is not really the answer.

      BrotherT - December 21, 2011 Reply

      I think you have a fair point Ani, and I certainly wasn’t writing to respond or criticize you. I think your response was thoughtful and I was just trying to further the discussion.

      Yes, it would be easy to push off someone’s cart and take their property in such a situation. But I think it would be pretty easy to make an entry into my apartment and take my stuff that I have there too. Maybe one would be easier than the other, but in both cases, either me, or the homeless person, we aren’t responsible for the bad act of the other.

        Ani.B - December 21, 2011 Reply

        Honestly, I think the guy sitting on the street right now is simply concerned with immediate survival. The things we do to help them should further this goal.

        As for morality and responsibility I am all for that. I am just saying that what “OUGHT” to be, and what “IS” may two separate issues….

Deek - December 21, 2011 Reply

I haven’t seen him in ages, but Hans is actually a distant relative of mine. No, not really- man, some wild concepts- very creative- ‘love it. Fun post Kent, and a great discussion above my input.
Have a happy and safe holiday all!


    Shea - December 25, 2011 Reply


    Small world, eh? 😉
    I do genealogy, and have been AMAZED at discovering ‘relatives’ all over the US and UK/France, and that my mother and father’s families BOTH originated (in America) in one small county in South Carolina, five generations before my mother and father ever met, through a war-time penpal service – by then, the families had long dispersed across the country: my mother’s 1830-1840 ancestors were Confederate soldiers, my father’s were Yankees…
    Sadly, my mother passed away before I discovered so many similarily neat things about our family histories (like, that Macbeth, himself, is IN OUR FAMILY TREE, on my father’s Franklin-Billingsley-Boteler(Butler)-DeRoos and Huntingdon lines, along with William-The-Lion King of Scots…!), but my father’s still around (late 80’s) and tickled to pieces over it… 😉
    Another ‘funny’ genealogy discovery: turns out a guy I dated just after high school was, in fact, a 3rd cousin!! And neither we nor they knew it at the time…
    Again, small world. But then, we ALL originated from much, much smaller groups, way way back, so odds are that many more of us are related to another than we could imagine!

      Shea - December 25, 2011 Reply

      Oh fer heaven’s sake, NOW I see that you did a ‘not’ thing in your post, which pretty much means I went babbling on and on over a non-fact (thanks a lot, Deek! I deserved it, for my earlier ‘tome’, I guess… lol)

Will - December 24, 2011 Reply

The reply section of these tiny home blogs are hilarious!

Tiny House Living – December 25, 2011 | Tiny House Living - December 25, 2011 Reply

[…] Han’s Mobile Shelters and Designs tinyhouseblog.com Even though squatting is illegal these days more then 1/3rd of the office spaces are empty, which is pretty embarrassing if you think of the housing problem. […]

    Shea - December 25, 2011 Reply

    And especially, think of all those foreclosed, vacant HOMES all over the US right now… some going (if they DO sell) for a low as 20% of their build/original price! And the poor folks who lost that home, having to witness someone else scooping up their life’s dream for a pittance compared to what they owed last year (and why they lost it).
    We have an enormous homeless (when people lose their homes) population, and now we have an enormous ummm… (what do you call it when a HOUSE loses its PEOPLE??) …well, you get my drift.
    Let’s let the ‘recent homeless’ folks move BACK into their foreclosed (and empty) house until things get sorted out later, eh?
    Would make more SENSE than letting our economy and social programs (the little they are) struggle in vain to keep up with the ‘new homeless’…

Brooke Lambie - December 25, 2011 Reply

So how about a “how-to please”? I am building a tiny house which is actually an old basement in a Bay Area hillside house. It is a challenge and I have taken pictures as I went along and want to share the process and what I have learned. How about a “how to” so I can contribute. I have a second basement project coming up and even a small semi- detached garage I am going to convert. Living space 3 miles from UC Berlekey campus is expensive and houses are unnecessarily huge. I am offering alternatives.

Inspiration From Harena « tinyhousewisdom - January 5, 2012 Reply

[…] trying to accommodate the needs of people who find themselves homeless, (see here: http://tinyhouseblog.com/tiny-house-concept/hans-mobile-shelters-and-designs/).  At the risk of sounding like I am trying to beat up on folks who […]

Itty, Bitty, Teeny Houses | Life by Colin and Allie - January 11, 2012 Reply

[…] with cheap materials, not innovative designs that maximize the living experience.  Oh, get this, squatting is a totally legit way to “tiny house” it these days.  It’s infuriating, […]

Anastasia - April 16, 2014 Reply

I love the fan tents / cubbies. I could see making them into a full half tube, so when one is awake, it can be left open, and when you go to sleep, you can close it. That way you will be fully covered without worrying about finding a wall.
One could also have snap on clear plastic for the ends, in the event of rain, and waterproof the fabric so you can sleep outside in the damp / rain.
In dry climates, this would be an awesome camping home.

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