In the capable hands of artist, tiny home enthusiast, and seasonal dumpster dweller
Gregory Kloehn, trash illegally unloaded on the streets in industrial areas of Oakland, Calif. is being repurposed as the primarily building materials for a series of handbuilt, sofa-sized shelters — “little homeless homes” — that help to keep the city's itinerant population dry in the rain, warm in the cold, and, thanks to a set of wheels built into each structure, mobile.
As of last early January, Kloehn
, who maintains a studio in West Oakland when not camped out in his Red Hook
, Brooklyn, pied-à-terre fashioned from an industrial-sized trash receptacle, has built around 10 of these do-gooding garbage structures with pitched roofs, foundations built from discarded wood shipping pallets and pizza delivery bag-based insulation. As reported by the Oakland Tribune
, each rolling shelter — most come equipped with a mirror, windows, cup holder, and other features geared to provide comfort and privacy to those sleeping on the streets — takes about two to three days to build and, although rather primitive, make a world of difference to those who would otherwise not have any
type of roof over the heads.
"They say this is just night and day, especially when it rains," Kloehn tells the Tribune. "Once your mattress gets wet, it's just terrible."
This particular tiny housing project is perhaps the most small-minded and big-hearted yet for Kloehn, a Colorado-reared sculptor who received a fair amount of media attention
last year for the aforementioned tricked-out East Coast dumpster retreat and who also converts shipping containers into functional homes.
Kloehn notes that the resourcefulness of West Oakland’s homeless population served as an inspiration when he set out building the structures: “I admire them for how they build. When you think about it, they are really living green. They're going around recycling all day and then they scrape stuff from the street to make a home on a piece of property that no one really cares about.”
Speaking to The Pioneer
, Kloehn notes that each structure costs about $30 to $40 to build — for "screws and tacks." As for the rest of the building materials, Kloehn has identified "hot spots" in East and West Oakland where he can easily source abundant cast-off junk (appliance parts, doors, lumber, furniture, etc.) from the streets. A dedicated scavenger, he comes across and/or collects trash for the project nearly every day of the week; over a two week span, he can gather around 1,000 pounds of useful materials.
As noted by the Tribune, a handful of the homes Kloehn has given away to those in need (most on the recipients are part of the homeless community that live in the vicinity of Kloehn's West Oakland studio) have met premature fates: one, the first that Kloehn gave away to a homeless couple who approached him for a spare tarp, was firebombed; one was stolen from its recipient; another was sold off as a doghouse for $80. Still, Kloehn plans to keep on building the brightly colored, backyard playhouse-esque shelters and has received an outpouring of support from Bay Area residents who would like to contribute labor and materials.
And with a decent handful of the shelters under his toolbelt, Kloehen is also considering starting a weekend building workshop so that others can learn how to construct the wheeled tiny homes using found/salvaged materials and basic carpentry skills; he's also thinking about publishing how-to videos and guides so that folks living outside of Oakland can contribute in their own cities.
After speaking with a spokeswoman for the city of Oakland, the Tribune concludes that although Kloehn’s rolling shelters popping up on the streets of West Oakland “had not registered on the city's radar” officials would “need to discuss whether the homes present encroachment or other policy issues.”
Head on over to Kloehn’s Facebook page
to view photos images of the little homeless homes and keep up to speed with the project.
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