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Big problem, tiny solution — but these tiny homes for the homeless just might work.

Even though these tiny houses are as small as backyard sheds, they could make a big difference for homelessness.

Big problem, tiny solution — but these tiny homes for the homeless just might work.

Meet 57-year-old Ray Lyall, one of more than 15,000 homeless folks living in Denver.

Photo via Ray Lyall’s Facebook, used with permission.


Ray is a member of a grassroots group called Denver Homeless Out Loud made up of folks who are homeless as well as supporters of the local Denver homeless population. Ray says he's been without a home for nearly three years, and he is most often found at the DHOL office or playing his guitar downtown.

With the cost of living in Denver (and other cities) continuing to rise, affordable housing is a huge issue, especially for those who can’t afford a place to live at all. And while there are many proposed solutions for limiting homelessness, Ray is part of the force behind a very unique and new idea: Creating a tiny home community for Denver’s homeless population.

A completed tiny home in Denver. Photo via DHOL, used with permission.

The tiny houses are only as big as backyard sheds, but some folks think they could make a big difference for homelessness.

Sometime around the late-1990s, minimalist living became trendy, and the tiny house movement was born. Soon after, homeless activists realized that tiny houses could be the perfect storm of a solution: They’re easy to build, cheap, environmentally friendly, and mobile, making them a great option for constructing quickly and inexpensively. It costs about $700 to $1,000 to build a small Conestoga hut, and approximately $2,500 to $5,000 to build a slightly larger tiny house.

Building a tiny house in Denver. Photo via DHOL, used with permission.

Some of the earliest tiny home communities for people experiencing extreme poverty and homelessness started popping up in 2004. You can find projects like the Village of Hope in Fresno, California, and River Haven in Ventura, California. Then, in 2013, Opportunity Village opened in Eugene, Oregon, and Quixote Village launched in Olympia, Washington. More recently, OM Village was constructed in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2014.

But while tiny houses could provide help for homeless people, cities so far have opposed the informal communities.

Denver Homeless Out Loud decided to embrace the small-home strategy in October 2015. They started by building five houses on vacant land, all with full understanding that it was an act of civil disobedience. Not surprisingly, the police were less than thrilled with the impromptu housing development, and on the night of October 24, the Denver Police Department (including the SWAT team) arrested 10 people responsible for the building and coordination of the tiny house community.

Resurrection Village in Denver was named after the “Resurrection City” constructed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Photo via DHOL, used with permission.

Denver isn't alone in this drama: Police have disrupted many of the other tiny home living communities around the country, and government officials aren't thrilled with the idea.

Many folks think tiny homes might not be the perfect solution.

The main concerns against these communities seem to revolve around zoning requirements, building standards, creating a community versus a "ghetto," and resident selection. Some also worry that tiny homes send the message that homeless people are not equal to everyone else.

OM Village in Madison, Wisconsin. Photo via OM Village, used with permission.

An imperfect solution might be better than none at all, however.

“It’s a home, not a shelter. And it’s their home," Ray Lyall explains. "[People] can paint the walls, do whatever they want. We want to give people a 15 by 15 foot plot that is theirs."

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Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

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Yesterday I was perusing comments on an Upworthy article about Joe Biden comforting the son of a Parkland shooting victim and immediately had flashbacks to the lead-up of the 2016 election. In describing former vice President Biden, some commenters were using the words "criminal," "corrupt," and "pedophile—exactly the same words people used to describe Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I remember being baffled that so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

But none of that was true.

It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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Empathy. Compassion. Heart-to-heart human connection. These qualities of leadership may not be flashy or loud, but they speak volumes when we see them in action.

A clip of Joe Biden is going viral because it reminds us what that kind of leadership looks like. The video shows a key moment at a memorial service for Chris Hixon, the athletic director at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018. Hixon had attempted to disarm the gunman who went on a shooting spree at the school, killing 17 people—including Hixon—and injuring 17 more.

Biden asked who Hixon's parents were as the clip begins, and is directed to his right. Hixon's wife introduces herself, and Biden says, "God love you." As he starts to walk away, a voice off-camera says something and Biden immediately turns around. The voice came from Hixon's son, Corey, and the moments that followed are what have people feeling all their feelings.

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With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

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