North America

Bringing shelter to those living on the street

Elvis Summers builds tiny homes for LA's homeless population. Source: SBS Dateline

Building tiny homes won’t solve homelessness, but it’s a way to bring basic shelter and dignity to those most in need, writes Elvis Summers.

When I started building tiny houses back in early 2015, I just wanted to help out a woman in my neighbourhood who had no place to go and was sleeping in the dirt.

The idea of a tiny house was to put a roof over a homeless person’s head, and give them the ability to live with the comfortability of shelter.

But the more I began to help others struggling with homelessness, and the more I took the time to talk to people, the faster I began to realise that nothing was as it seemed. The nature of homelessness was different to what I had been told, or what everybody seemed to say. The worst part; it wasn’t at all even close to what our elected officials were telling us.

The homeless are simply people – people without homes.

Becoming homeless can, does and will happen to anyone.

Greed is a disease, and the more somebody takes, the less someone else on the other end receives.  Sure the stereotype exists, you know the one about homeless people choosing to be there, not wanting help, having mental issues or being a drug addict?

But the majority of people that are homeless don’t want to be there, and would jump at the opportunity to leave and have their dignity back. Yes, many people have drug addictions and yes many have mental issues. But what’s worse; those who are forced to endure daily abuse, being shunned and try to survive on the streets (“no you can’t use my bathroom, or why don’t you get a job you f’ing bum”), or those who inflict it upon them?

Depression is a bitch, anyway you slice it. If I was treated this way daily and told these things, at some point I’d probably turn to drugs and alcohol too. Nobody likes being treated like crap, let alone like they don’t exist or are some kind of sub-human and worthless.

Everybody has something to give, something to offer and I believe in supporting this. If we want better communities to live in, we have to build them.

Tiny houses are fast and cheap to build yet sturdy and safe, and most of all provide a shelter where a person can get a good night’s rest and keep their belongings safe.

It’s the first step of many steps. It’s not a permanent solution, but rather a stepping stone and a damn good, humane one at that. The goal is to make small communities of tiny houses with community gardens and provide resources to people who are homeless so they can first get a good night’s rest and repair their minds from the lack of good sleep. It’s also to give people their dignity back and let them feel human again.

Once this happens, which can be fairly quickly, people can then more easily address the other issues they need help with. The streets should be clean and safe for everyone, and open to everyone, and by starting with what the main cause of homelessness is – a lack of affordable housing – we will end homelessness much faster than any current plan.

As human beings we need to do better. We can do better.

There’s no good future for anyone, rich or poor, if we continue to treat each other so badly.

I will build a tiny house for every last poor soul if I have too, but I really don’t want to. I’d rather create enough change and inspire enough people to get up and help and do something so I don’t have to build millions of homes.

I want to live in a better one. Don’t you?

Elvis Summers build ‘tiny homes’ for homeless people in Los Angeles, through Starting Human. He is featured in Dateline’s recent film, Tiny Home Rebel.