This LA Musician Built $1,200 Tiny Houses for the Homeless. Then the City Seized Them.



each night tens of thousands of people sleep in tent cities crowding the palm-lined boulevards of Los Angeles but a struggling musician from South LA thought he had a creative temporary fix he crowdfunded $100,000 and built dozens of solar-powered tiny houses to shelter the homeless but on the morning city officials were gathering to celebrate their new nearly two billion dollar plan to end homelessness police and garbage crews were descending on the tiny homes ordered by the city to seize and destroy them Los Angeles emergency in the country's second-largest such a problem that's spinning out of control crisis proportions there the shelter crisis as the city is overwhelmed by spiking the homeless population most camps are seen everywhere has been living on the sidewalk here for the past 30 years it is behind this homeless crisis in LA here in the entertainment capital of the world over half the homeless population will sleep on the streets tonight far more than in any other American city there are 28,000 homeless people in just the city of Los Angeles and the number has hit new record highs in each of the past few years but LA mayor Eric Garcetti has a plan this is a bold step forward today for Los Angeles a year ago I'll be blunt the City Council the mayor weren't working together on this Garcetti introduced a funding proposal in February that would devote nearly two billion dollars over the next decade to getting all la residents off the streets once and for all but at the time of Garcetti s announcement dozens of homeless people had already found shelter in the form of solar-powered tiny houses dispersed throughout the neighborhoods of South LA and beyond in Los Angeles a growing movement a big impact it's an innovative effort to help the homeless giving homes to the homeless they were built by a self-described struggling musician named Elvis summers I got involved with building tiny houses because of a woman named smokey she's 62 years old this is my neighborhood and as I got to know her realize that she was sleeping in the dirt and I decided to build a tiny house in his 20s Summers was homeless for stretches of time himself now the 39 year old is trying to help his neighbors who have fallen on hard times some other homeless people came by and asked if I could build them one I didn't have the money so I figured you try one of these crowdfunding things I've seen out there I mean blew my mind I mean I think I passed 50 thousand in the first week total I've raised you know over a hundred thousand Summers has built tiny homes for nearly 40 people aided by professional contractors and other volunteers who sign up to help through his nonprofit starting human each house costs roughly $1,200 for materials the houses I build have carpet two windows a steel reinforced door smoke detector it's got a solar panel on the roof powers two light bulbs and the battery pack has a USB port on it to charge your cell phone which is huge and address American flag summers also equips each of the six by ten foot houses with a camping toilet and even window alarms he says they were never meant to be a permanent solution but unlike sleeping on the sidewalk or in a ten his tiny houses provide the secure foundation residents need to improve their lives you know the tiny houses provide immediate shelter you know the houses I build a very sturdy and safe people can lock their stuff up and know that when they come back from their drug treatment program or a court or finding a job all day that this stuff is where they left it I got my resume my showers no were to not be homeless want to order pizza Tomorrowland home but as Summers was building houses anger in the community over growing street homelessness was reaching a boiling point early this year these homes was nothing more than a detriment to mine in my neighbors homes families in children and they created a sense of terror in the residents nestled within dour tent shanty towns summerses tiny houses became brightly colored targets for residents who want the homeless out of their backyards they had the children walking in the middle of the street and not on the curbside when they're going over the overpasses most of summerses tiny houses were placed on private land that's been donated to the project such as a parking lot outside a convenience store in a church in Compton a handful replaced the tents that have proliferated on freeway overpasses they're not right in front of a business they're not in you know in front of somebody's house and the sidewalks are extra wide so you know it seemed as far as public places the safest best place to be until I could get land and then take them and put them on on property building a small community but la viewed the houses as a nuisance in February the City Council amended a sweeps ordinance to allow the tiny houses to be seized without prior notice on the morning of the ninth police and garbage trucks descended telling three of the houses to a bureau sanitation lot for disposal my phone just blows up by everybody on 42nd Street just freaking out like they're throwing us out of the houses they're telling us they're taking them like what do we do I mean they wouldn't let them get their clothes or their medications they threw them out left them on the sidewalk I pleaded with them I was like okay we'll look they have wheel locks on them let me unlock the wheels at least you know so you don't break them No they refused they just wanted to take them and destroy summers managed to move eight of the threatened houses into storage before they were confiscated but their residents had nowhere to go I had to evict to veterans who paid their ticket they shouldn't be homeless period you know I get angry they did their service they gave up their dreams so the rest of us can be out here and be a bunch of assholes you know there needs to be some respect our community was so negatively impacted by these structures that many of us come together to get them removed we call councilman prices office because we needed him to do something about it I don't think living in that box is the alternative to having some housing current price is the LA City Councilman who represents the district where the houses were located and who ordered the seizures might have been objections to the timely houses everyone call them houses it really just box they're multicolored boxes is that they're safe they're not safe and that they impose real hazards for other neighbors in the community people in neighborhoods that are concerned about all of that their property values and you know tiny houses and homeless people in their neighborhood have every right period to be pissed off and I completely agree with them but you know you're misdirecting your anger direct it to the powers that be that are supposed to be doing their job my whole issue and cause is that something needs to be done right now until permanent housing does come available I think just just a temporary fix is a false sense of security as would the timbi without any real supportive services but two homeless people who had escaped tents and moved into the tiny homes the security they provided seemed anything but false after the city's sweep they were forced once again to call the sidewalk home I've been home is like two years one of the guys Willie who's an engineer who I gave the red house to he used to have it right here in the house you feel secure could you we plugged your lucky door after Willie had Knotts house was seized by the city he went back to living in a tent above the 110 freeway I tried to cover it up you know as much as I can but hey at the as he taken cut it with a razor blades much much kid you have it all you know it's coming you know that they really don't care for you too much they said first thing officer told me he said well go get a job my second you help me good one I'm willing to work it's not really all in little jobs map it Eli Harold go Willie is an ex engineer he loves kids he loves tinkering with things and I have a little a little platform like a little stands for that I build to put this on it that's a little wood toy a man but you know some kid with a lot of hats man and I got this out of duster which I really don't like say but I do go dumpster diving okay a few days after I gave him his house he pulled me aside and basically did I mean he just told me that like he was so low and there's just no hope and he basically was just used given up and he was contemplating ending his life finally getting hope there's a chance you know maybe I can turn this around and then just you know having someone come and suck it away from you it's horrible I put a lot into it you don't saying I'm not saying I wanted a lot back but I I was securing what I had my little house man my little houses made the world for me and it still means the world to me we've offered housing to individuals who are willing to come in and you know frequently the responses well I don't want to go to the shelter I just want to stay here on the street there are a fraction of shelter space to how many people are homeless but otherwise the shelters are dirty it's dangerous in there the food is not good it's got bedbugs you can't go with a girlfriend pets or any of your personal items that let's suggesting that the shelters are the answer that obviously is a temporary step of an alternative step I think it's a better step you know than someone sleeping on the sidewalk under a bench or on a bitch I think the way you make it better is having some kind of coordinated services you know where you can refer people to the kind of assistance they need as opposed to giving them a structure letting them think that they've got it there okay now because they had a little they're sitting in a little box and it their problems are gonna be solved you you go out and spend you know many nights on the street and be treated as a monster and then be given you know a warm place to stay and tell me you're not going to call it a home when the city took those three houses they chose to do it at the exact same time that the council in the mayor were at City Hall unveiling the mayor's new homeless 1.8 7 billion dollar plan this is an important policy statement and I think it's going to provide it with a road map in a variety of areas we are beginning to make a difference and a difference that is long overdue we've identified some some action items working closely with the county and so we're working really in collaboration ways that we happen before we have identified and need to come some funds a specific number some funding for prolonged period of time everything that they have been doing and you know doesn't work it's just years of circles and you know bureaucratic holds and wait times and you know like I would like them to care 10 20 30 40 years I mean water salt house mayor Garcetti z' plan focuses on permanent supportive housing aiming to build 10,000 units for homeless families over the next decade but in the meantime la is taking funds away from temporary shelters the tiny houses are you know a cheap effective immediate step and as long as they are you know managed in small communities that would be best I've almost completed my first mobile shower unit which super excited to get done currently Los Angeles owns thousands of vacant lots that could provide locations for micro housing villages like those that already exist in several other cities including Portland Seattle Austin and elsewhere I mean not only they could open a few up that have been sitting there for decades that we could build communities on but open up a warehouse and stop chastising the homeless for collecting the good citizens garbage encourage them give them a job doing it well we're trying we're trying to come up some solutions you know we're looking at letting people stay in the parking lots for example you know the publicity the veteran vehicles the parking parking labs perhaps that could be a good location for tents for for other types of temporary shelters in May following national media attention Los Angeles returned the tiny houses it had seized with their solar power systems missing on the condition that summers placed them only property as for mayor Garcetti in the City Council they scored a success on the November ballot as LA voters approved a 1.2 billion dollar bond measure to partially fund new permanent housing construction exactly a decade after the city's first ten-year plan to end homelessness withered in 2006 every Angelino deserves a safe place to sleep at night the mayor's office says that though the city appreciates citizens creative solutions to end homelessness he does not support opening a surplus slot for Elvis summers or other tiny house village concepts until the city has some more time to study the issue business as usual for me I'm going to keep building I'm going to keep helping these people this can all change I mean if people want a beautiful positive community you have to build one you can't just you know sweep stuff under the rug and pretend it doesn't exist if I you know can't get through to the city to open their minds to actually give a crap about what's going on you know to the people of our city and create change with me you know I'll do it myself then and with all the support that I do get and everybody that doesn't want to come and contribute I'll get private land we'll build small communities we'll save these people's lives I've got a walking along I have a friend right here I do have that

22 Comments

  • Cetrion

    April 14, 2019

    Bless that musician. The greedy city counsel and everyone who opposed the tiny homes needs to die a painful death.

    Reply
  • Lord Shua

    April 14, 2019

    GOD DAMN IT YOU LAZY FUCKING AMERICANS! OUR GOVERNMENT IS TOXIC AND DESTRUCTIVE! READ OUR FOUNDING DOCUMENTS WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO ALTER OR ABOLISH A BAD GOVERNMENT! THEY ARE CLEARLY A BAD GOVERNMENT!

    Reply
  • Coisa DaLatinoamerica

    April 14, 2019

    Wow… making Favelas like brasil ??

    Reply
  • DL Beaven

    April 14, 2019

    Yes, cause the tents were so much safer.. ?

    Reply
  • Tiffany P.

    April 14, 2019

    Man I’m in tears over this . This is a horrible country man. These houses or boxes could’ve been used as a mission of some form. They instead destroyed them . This is crazy man . Thank you for your service veterans you don’t deserve this at all!

    Reply
  • Pinda

    April 14, 2019

    That entitled ranting bitch needs ? to ? die ?

    Reply
  • Terry Novack

    April 14, 2019

    It's not a box it's a home.

    Reply
  • MR Dot1

    April 14, 2019

    homless people are not a new thing.. how much longer they want to study the issue? the unrestricted capitalism, unrestricted free market, is the cause that homelessness is not yet solved.. why? cuz there is no money in creating free housing, and free drug programs, cuz its needs money and dont makes money…

    Reply
  • MR Dot1

    April 14, 2019

    that councilman is a moron.. we can provide more parking lots for tent's… the whole idea is to get the people out of tent's , and give them a secure lockable place that they can leave there things and go out to get a job or whatever..

    Reply
  • David Brown

    April 14, 2019

    Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
    Matthew ~19.23/24

    Reply
  • Charles E. Head

    April 14, 2019

    Good job ELVIS …

    Reply
  • Dontfall Asleep

    April 14, 2019

    Smh! It’s so sad!

    Reply
  • Echo Rose

    April 14, 2019

    WWJD? THIS.

    Reply
  • Seafarinhare

    April 14, 2019

    "A constructed box is less safe than a tent on the highway" -City Government

    Reply
  • Kellie Hu

    April 14, 2019

    Ok so the buildings are up to “code” why not work with him to bring them up to standard? Bureaucracy crushing innovative solutions – Government at its worst!

    Reply
  • Peter Smith

    April 14, 2019

    This guy stroke gold with this business respect tha hustler

    Reply
  • Alicia cyriac

    April 14, 2019

    WTF THIS GETS ME SO ANGRYYYY WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THE LA DEPARTMENT GETING RID OF THESE HOMES!

    Reply
  • Dazex

    April 14, 2019

    How can that council man say it’s not safe??? A locked box with 2 window alarms in comparison to a open tent on a side walk. Most can’t even get a job without an address.
    lol what other research needs to be done on homeless? Just taking people’s money to do nothing smh

    Reply
  • Jessie Mitchell

    April 14, 2019

    It's so frustrating when people just don't get how much time it takes to build yourself up from $0. Especially when the world around you is holding you back

    Reply
  • lazy gamer

    April 14, 2019

    It would be awesome if we could vote on policies to fix stuff like this. The citizens should be able to choose what leaders and what policies the country has.

    Reply
  • Orion6699

    April 14, 2019

    Where do you put them? Especially in a city where land is unbelievably expensive? Who pays for the heat and power? Who has to go in and clean out all the shit and needles and puke because junkies just care about getting high?

    Reply
  • Rinne Azumi

    April 14, 2019

    Pffft blablabla their only saying that cause they don't get the profits and taxes ?

    Reply

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