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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."

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."