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Tiny Houses for Charity, Affordable Housing, or Emergency Shelters

By Laura LaVoie

Building a tiny house started out as a very personal journey for me.  As time went on we were asked to help a small organization in South Africa build a shelter for kids. To be honest, volunteering with a non-profit organization had never been on my radar screen before but sometimes the right project comes along. A friend had moved to South Africa and was working with an organization there that helped orphans and other vulnerable children. Next thing we knew, we were making plans to travel to Durban South Africa to work with them to design a sustainable shelter using the skills we gained from building a tiny house. Fundraising has been continuing and eventually we will be able to go back and build it.

Tiny houses are a great fit for a lot of nonprofit organizations. They are small, portable, and can be inexpensive to build. They can also be built by volunteers who may not have experience in designing or building. 

I am not the only tiny house builder who took my newfound skills and applied them to charitable causes. You may be familiar with Kendall of Nerd Girl Homes. She is a high school senior who is building a Tumbleweed Tiny House (the Lusby) to give to someone who needs a home or she will auction it off and donate the money to a charitable cause. So many tiny house builders build for themselves; it is amazing to hear about someone, especially in high school, building a tiny home for someone else.

Tiny Houses for Charity, Affordable Housing or Emergency Shelter

Artist/Photo Credit Joni Beckner

There was also a Facebook post at my Think Big Build Small Community that read: “I am planning a build for multiple tiny homes that will be either rent to own or I will lend them to a nonprofit I volunteer for that helps transgender people in crisis, often who are verging on homelessness or trying to get off the street. The first one I plan to build will be “The Secret Garden Tiny House” and will be on loan to them for their house manager to have her own private space, and to open a bed up in their residential program. Plus she can use the extra bed in it for emergency housing. The second will most likely be the Stepping Stone house and will be temporarily located in my backyard and rented at low cost to people who are ready to move out of the residence but not wanting roommates. We will see.” I reached out to the poster but have not heard back. If you’re out there, I would love to hear more about your project.

When searching for “Tiny House Charity” one of the things I found most interesting is that a lot of tiny house builders and enthusiasts are dedicated to charitable causes. Sometimes it has nothing to do with their tiny house at all, but they use their voice as a tiny house builder to share their cause. Ours is a powerful platform based on personal and social change.

What tiny house related charitable causes are you familiar with? If you could use your tiny house skills, what would you do with them to help others? 

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Alex

Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 18 comments… add one }
  • LaMar Alexander LaMar September 15, 2012, 9:25 am

    I have provided my solar cabin plans to church and charity organizations in many countries including Africa and Alaska.

    If you are a charity or church organization looking to build low cost homes for people you can contact me for the plans. lamar at simplesolarhomesteading.com

    The solar cabin can be built for under $2000 and is large enough for 6 people to live and sleep comfortably. It has been tried and tested in all weather extremes including Alaska and Figi Islands.

    You can add a small solar/wind power system for off grid applications and complete directions for installing the power system, solar composting toilet and other passive solar projects are included in the plans.

    • Jake December 1, 2014, 7:10 pm

      Hello Lamar,
      I don’t know if you are still active on here but I’m interested in the solar cabin plans you offered. Though I am not an official charity or church, my brother and I along with our teenage children have been looking into getting a little bit of acreage to start building a place to live as well as learn valuable life skills for foster kids who get the boot as soon as they turn 18 with nowhere to go. Anyhow if you think your plans would be a help to us it would be greatly appreciated. -Jake

    • Mary December 20, 2016, 2:38 am

      I’m a single disabled mother,I’m looking for help getting a tiny home, built for my daughter’s and myself.We are desperately seeking help..if anyone can get us in a tiny home..the church accorss the street from us has a large empty lot..We are in NJ..And I’ve sought help since 2011 for housing.My SSD is about 500 a month..Please can someone help me ?

  • Jennifer September 15, 2012, 10:47 am

    I was talking with a friend of mine about the possibility of starting a charity for low income single parents to help them get funding to build tiny homes for themselves & their children. I want to buy some land specifically to start a sort of tiny house community where these folks can build their homes & live in the community in exchange for helping to build with others. I love the idea of helping others to live a debt free sustainable lifestyle. Many single parents, myself included, have had to live in a rented room or tiny efficiency apartment with their child(ren). The smallest apartment I lived in with my daughter was around 200 sf & tiny houses would be a great alternative to renting places that are often run down & in bad areas. In addition if you build an active solar tiny house the owner has less bills to worry about paying & more money to put toward other things like food, clothing, school supplies, etc.
    I’m an ordained Deist Minister & would love to start a program like this after I get the experience of building my own tiny house under my belt!
    -Reverend Jen 🙂

    • Lady Tenazby September 15, 2012, 6:53 pm

      I agree. I am building my own and my son’s and daughter in law’s as well.. I have thought about doing a “rent to own” kind of thing where credit isn’t an issue. Where single parents or even families who just need a hand-up and aren’t looking for a hand-out would be able to have a home of their own. I would love to help with any kind of community situation where people get into the old time “barn raising” sort of mentality. You know, where neighbors actually help one another, and people actually look out for one another.

  • Christina Ellis September 26, 2012, 10:30 pm

    I actually just posted this question on the FB page you provided above and thought I’d post it here as well:) I’d love to help in any way I can with this as well!! What a wonderful idea!!

    I’m so happy I found this page! I’m a single Mother who would LOVE to one day build a tiny house for my 2 children and myself. My parents actually have land that I would be able to build on. I’m curious about the financial aspect of a project and would love to hear others input. Being a broke MOMMY lol.. I’m thinking this is a dream that is long in the future but… Hey never hurts to dream right??

  • sunshineandrain January 10, 2013, 2:22 am

    I would gladly do a “Habitat-for-Humanity”-style build with a fellow Tiny-Houser.

  • peter September 1, 2014, 6:58 am

    Affordable housing and community development raise intricate legal challenges that can be difficult to unravel. Today’s economic and public funding climate present even further complexity so it’s critical to work

  • Amanda May 17, 2015, 6:15 am

    Hello,
    Came across this page. I was wondering if anyone knew who i could contact , i right now financial distress, with health issues that will only progresses, on top of all of that i am a single mom. I have tried local government programs with no luck. It would actually do me a world of good to have less space and be able to have an outdoor area for my son (myself also) as of this far i have been blessed that my family has helped me but they can no longer do so. I am down to the wire with no way out. I have no idea IF or when i may be able to work again.
    Love this page btw
    Thanks so much,
    A

    • Alex May 17, 2015, 12:24 pm

      Hi Amanda, sorry to hear you’re going through tough times, where are you located?

      • Shannon Schomaker November 10, 2015, 4:43 am

        Fwd: Thank you…
        I’m looking to build a “TINY!” house, which will be the first TINY home here in the metro area… It is only $20,000 to build one, and it is a tax write off, as well as a HUGE need in Colorado. I would allow all pictures, and videos of the process, from breaking ground, to completion. I have a section 8 voucher, and can’t find a place that will take it, and that’s why people are HOMELESS in Colorado, with housing vouchers, including VETERANS!! I have researched the tiny home process, and it costs average, of $20.000…
        PLEASE contact me if you can assist in starting a place to call home, that will be a HUGE money maker for people who can help get this going and start a STOP to homelessness. I have multiple sclerosis, and I don’t need a big place, just something to live in until the last breath I take.
        Shannon Schomaker

  • Crystal July 13, 2015, 11:27 am

    I could also use some help, single mom, no child support, living off of disability payments of 658 per month, staying with family and I feel the tension building more and more every day. I’m tired of being a burden and really need a place of our own. I would be happy to do a rent to own program but couldn’t afford more than 300 per month. I can’t find help anywhere, depression is consuming me, and I just don’t know where to turn. I don’t have a cell phone and the home phone here is not set up with an answering machine, but if anyone is willing to help me you can email me at [email protected]. I live in Missouri and my parents have property that I can place a tiny home on.

  • Bendybelle July 31, 2015, 8:07 am

    I’ve dreamed of a tiny home for some time. I have a rare disease called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and a few years ago I was torn from the job I loved, the job that kept me strong so that my EDS didn’t ravage my body, when I sustained a spinal cord injury saving a dog. I joke, the dog made it, my back didn’t. I am unable to do many of the things I need to maintain my independence. One of those is keeping up the giant house I love it, that belongs to a family member that is desperate to sell it.
    A tiny house would put me in my parents back yard. Easier for them to help out, less space for me to keep up, and I’d always have a house.
    Does anyone have any ideas how I might go about getting supplies donated, or people to donate time to build. I have no income right now, as I wait and hope that either my social security comes through ( the thought of living off the government terrifies me, and is humiliating as posting in the Internet for help) and maybe the local Shepherd Center a world renowned hospital dedicated to spinal cord injuries will accept me into their program, and can help. A tiny house would be the answer to my family’s prayers.
    I just want to be able to take care of myself, tidy up my own house, and find a way to work.
    Any suggestions would be appreciated. I know this is an old thread, but I have to reach out where I can.

  • Shannon Schomaker November 10, 2015, 4:41 am

    Fwd: Thank you…
    I’m looking to build a “TINY!” house, which will be the first TINY home here in the metro area… It is only $20,000 to build one, and it is a tax write off, as well as a HUGE need in Colorado. I would allow all pictures, and videos of the process, from breaking ground, to completion. I have a section 8 voucher, and can’t find a place that will take it, and that’s why people are HOMELESS in Colorado, with housing vouchers, including VETERANS!! I have researched the tiny home process, and it costs average, of $20.000…
    PLEASE contact me if you can assist in starting a place to call home, that will be a HUGE money maker for people who can help get this going and start a STOP to homelessness. I have multiple sclerosis, and I don’t need a big place, just something to live in until the last breath I take.
    Shannon Schomaker

  • Kim June 6, 2016, 4:29 pm

    I’m looking for any information to point us in the right direction any help appreciated! I’m on ssi in Mississippi I have two children me and my boys really need a tiny house to call our own it’s been a long hard road with no end in site. We have never really had anywhere to call home my “husband” of 9 years has always been a violent person most times I have to pack them up in the middle of the night we want to leave but there is now no where to go we just want s safe place to call home please any help or know of what I can do please let me know thank you all

  • robina brown November 25, 2016, 11:18 pm

    hello,to everyone on this site.i am a single parent and would love to live in a tiny house if i can get one.right now we are living in a condemned home .it’s unfit to live in and it will be torn down leaving us nowhere to go.i am a hard dedicated honest working tax payer but it’s also very hard for me to manage living in a bad situation as i am !i was looking for anybody to care enough to help support us.we need your help right now.i know economt crisis play’s a big roll in our everyday life but we have to fight ,thrive ,and strive the best we can with what we can.i am a truly believer that anything is possible and if we put our foolish pride aside we can help support one another in any way we can.we must come together to achieve that!i love you all and i thank each and everyone of you on here.we are one big family!call me-334-4629994 or email me [email protected]

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