American designer and builder Gregory Kloehn is using salvaged trash to make houses for the homeless. Called the Homeless Homes Project, Kloehn upcycles mobile shelters from items he finds in dumpsters.
The origin of the Homeless Homes Project
Before starting the Homeless Homes Project, Gregory Kloehn was building miniature houses to sell. One day a homeless couple came past and asked if he had a spare tarp. Kloehn didn’t have a tarp but he did have a small wooden house he had built. Then he realised, this was a home that the couple could use.
“I had this home sitting right here,” Kloehn said. “I thought, ‘Why am I keeping it?'”
This marked the beginning of the Homeless Homes Project.
The goal of the Homeless Homes is bringing together imaginative people and discarded materials to make sturdy, innovative and mobile shelters for homeless people.
Each house in the Homeless Homes Project is built with materials found on the street. Pallets, doors, refrigerator parts, discarded plastic sheeting and washing machines are all upcycled into walls, roofs, doors, windows, wheels and locks. Much of the material is from illegally dumped trash piled up on the streets of semi-industrial West Oakland, California.
The foundation and floors of the houses in the Homeless homes Project are typically made from wooden pallets. With the help of volunteers, Kloehn can make a home in 2-3 days out of five pallets. Several homes are also insulated with pizza delivery bags.
Each house is big enough to sleep in, with cut-outs and windows to bring light in. The structures are unique, one repurposes a washing machine door for a window, another uses reflective bike panels across the entryway. Depending on what he finds, Kloehn also brings in homely touches like shelving units, mirrors, cup holders and even paintings.
All of the homes are on wheels so they can be moved to accommodate the mobile lifestyle of their residents. They all also have pitched roofs so that rain runs off. As you could imagine, for homeless people this is a major life improvement. Wonder, one of the homeless people to receive a house from the Homeless Homes project, describes it as the best house she’s had in five years. Her new home is parked next to her former ‘house’, an old sofa draped with a tarp. She opens the front door – made from a discarded picnic table – to showcase the pizza bag insulation. “It gets real hot in here,” she says with a smile.
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