Saturday, December 01, 2007

Does The Cooper-Hewitt Citation Make The Mad Housers Respectable? Posted by olvlzl.

When they retired from the farm, my grandparents lived in “the little house”, about 16 feet square, four rooms and a water closet. There was also an outhouse in a tiny, unattached shed. Though it was a perfectly good place for two people to live and they had lived there with two of their children early in their marriage, it would probably never be allowed today. At least not unless it was on wheels.

The tiny house movement is a good thing, a rational reaction to the absurd mega-mansions that people have been gulled into wanting. Seems that a lot of people are rethinking letting a large house and mortgage eat up their lives. While some of the tiny houses are jewels of traditional and modern architecture, those are out of the income range of many who you really need a tiny house. As the Cooper Hewitt exhibit which featured the Mad Housers pointed out, there are 90% of the world who need to get through a life as well.

The Mad Housers began in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s a group which builds tiny shacks for homeless people where they can sleep and get out of the elements. The houses are built by volunteers of donated materials and then turned over to the people they are built for. Their website shows two basic models, with plans. There is the 6x8' house with a sleeping loft and the 4x8' “low rider” for situations in which the housing has to be really inconspicuous. In northern climates they would have to include insulation, even with the tiny, funky home-made wood stoves they provide. While I’m not sure about the stoves, they say they’ve got a good record of safety. Still, I’d like to see one before I decide on it.

The Housers, like any well thought out shoestring group, has to be very careful about where they expend their limited resources and volunteer time. While the placement of the huts is often of marginal legality, there are some situations more marginal than others. I’m impressed at their practicality and realism. Some of their clients use the huts as a way to get out of destitution some of their clients are so down and out that they will probably never climb out.

Lending people money at a ruinous rate of interest, risking their falling into destitution is not only legal, it’s encouraged by banking and lending laws. Providing housing for people living in the rough makes you an outlaw. Sometimes, at least. In their FAQ there is one dealing with the advisability of providing housing for people without houses as if being disparately poor without a place to sleep wasn’t bad enough. Somewhere in the things I read for this post someone asks if people would rather have someone sleeping in their doorway or in one of these huts. Maybe that question is the best answer.