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98 Sq. Ft. $3k Tiny Houses for the Homeless in Madison, Wisconsin

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A small charity group in Madison, Wisconsin is collecting donations and building 98 sq. ft. $3,000 tiny houses on wheels with the area’s homeless.

And it’s not just a hand out since the future tiny home owners labor away to help build their own homes, and hopefully some of their future neighbors homes too.

The houses are really tiny and very basic but they’re bound to make a huge difference in these people’s lives who have never had the chance to own a home in their lives.

With bathrooms and kitchens and a cost of just $3,000 to build I think there’s a huge opportunity to help lots of people get back on their feet and into a better environment to improve their lives.

Because nothing beats simply having a front door to close and be inside a warm home of your own. Occupy Madison is aiming to complete 10 more tiny homes by the end of 2014.

Where are they putting them? Great question! They’ve temporarily arranged parking with local churches until the group finds a permanent location for the homes.

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98 Sq. Ft. $3k Tiny House for Homeless in Madison

Image: NBC 15

The goal is to obtain a plot of land where they can park around 30 of them.

Watch the video of the news segment below to learn, see more and even donate to the cause if you want to:

If the video above doesn’t work for you click here to watch directly at NBC 15. Visit the organization’s official website here. Donate to the cause here.

Read the original story here.

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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!
{ 34 comments… add one }
  • Virginia La Monica
    December 4, 2013, 10:48 am

    Way to go Madison, WI. Wake up L.A. and the rest of you.

    • jim sadler
      December 19, 2013, 9:03 pm

      One consideration is that the poor usually have no way to pull a boat-home out of the water and wind storms in Florida are all too frequent. A place to simply pull the boat free of the water and get it to where it can be really secured is vital. You would not believe the expensive,large yachts that are on the bottom here after every hurricane. By the time a warning is issued there is often no escape from anchorage..

      • jerryd
        December 19, 2013, 9:19 pm

        Sorry Jim but out at anchor is the safest place in a storm in a decent boat. I’ve survived too many times when the homes on land didn’t, including hurricanes in my 25 yrs living aboard from Fla to So America, mostly So Fla.

        Most though will be in very protected waters because i’s not comfortable in most boats not to be there.

        Though my trimaran can happily anchor out in waves that cause single hull boats to roll badly, and only a 6” draft, has so many anchoring options others don’t have.

  • Martha Federle
    December 4, 2013, 12:37 pm

    This is a wonderful idea, and I would like to see follow-ups on it in the future. How will it work in practice? How will the community accept it? How many homeless have actually signed on for eventually getting their own homes? Who will pay the utilities? Etc.

    • Virginia La Monica
      December 4, 2013, 12:45 pm

      Having a tiny home in a church parking lot would give the homeless an address so they can receive a SS, Disability or Unemployment check so they can pay their own tiny utility bills. When the homeless are on the street, they don’t have an address to receive mail.

      • Maria
        May 25, 2015, 2:20 pm

        When I was homeless the church let us get mail there, downstairs had outreach center where we could eat, shower, watch TV or rest a few hours. Sad part is when you in wheelchair not many shelters have staff to assist you, I slept on a deserted beach in a 2 person pop up tent with a stray doberman who lived on beach. If government used all these wooded areas that are eye sores and helped homeless it would be a blessing. I’m on SSI and get $730 a month which is suppose to cover rent, utilities, co pay on meds, clothes, etc…. Try it if anyone thinks its easy, my rent is $500 a month, I get $190 in food stamps in middle of month, so I get to choose food until food stamps or pay bill on time, my uncle pays my cell phone $45 a month which is Straighttalk so I can phone and internet.

    • BruceMcF
      December 4, 2013, 4:22 pm

      One of the most interesting parts of the project is the Sweat Equity part ~ from the Occupy Madison site, the contract between OMI and the Occupant of the house is a stewardship contract that includes a certain total number of hours of direct work contribution.

      Indeed a $3,000 ~100ft^2 space would also allow for a village zoned as a mobile home park to include rental at terms that could allow some people to avoid homelessness, which could make it a financially self-sustaining exercise for a community non-profit. A pure 10yr rent-to-own rent rental for the cash cost of the house alone would be under $50/month (conservatively ~ that is a 12% annual interest rate) with a sliding scale additional rental depending on 25%, 50%, 75% or 100% sweat equity. At 100% sweat equity, given the small space the house occupies, it could well be less than $100/month home & lot rental.

      • Paul
        August 3, 2017, 8:38 pm

        I saw a news report that suggested for what was spend to build this, they could have bought these folks a lot at Woodhaven Lakes with a brand factory build trailer on it. Those lots all come with electric and water. Most have sewer hooks ups. They allow travel trailers.

  • So cal. Desert
    December 4, 2013, 1:35 pm

    Wow, 3k that’s amazing. I see tiny house like that for sale on this site all the time for 6-7k . I’m glad they can do something. I was rv living for a while ( not by choice or a good rv) and it was cold and crappy but, it was something I could lock and not worry about harassment. If you guys could send me some info , we might be able to get something going out here too. It’s cold in Joshua tree cal and hot in the summer. Thanks for the hope , looking forward to hearing from you! H elping O ther P eople E veryday!

  • Trisha
    December 4, 2013, 3:12 pm

    I can’t find the article about how to build the box stairs…I want to use this in my tiny house. The guy gave how to figure the dimensions etc and step by step directions on how to build. I am sure it was in one of the Nov newsletters. Please help as soon as possible.
    Thanks so much!

  • Doc
    December 4, 2013, 3:59 pm

    I’ve been looking at this all wrong. If we can get cities to approve these on permanent sites for the homeless, say a vacant city lot, for long term residency. Could be overseen by churches. Groups already positioned to assist the needy. It may just pave the way for those of us that are not homeless yet! This is a concept they, the powers that be, may be able to wrap their heads around. With some education about frugality, a foreign concept for them for sure, sustainability and energy independence they may actually open up to this…
    perchance to dream…

    • kestavara
      January 20, 2014, 11:22 am

      I really like the way you’re thinking here. It brings the assistance/charity back to the local community and individuals, which historically it makes a difference in people actually getting back to being able to be self reliant; as opposed to the government giving the handout, which historically leads to more expectant dependency.

  • Janet
    January 18, 2014, 6:05 pm

    WHAT A GREAT, GREAT, GREAT IDEA!! Could a member of the general public get a copy of the building plans? I’d like this for myself, also for the homeless population here.

  • Linda
    June 9, 2014, 5:35 pm

    Seriously, they needed to extend the loft farther out to make it large enough for a mattress up there. That would leave the bed area downstairs free for living space. I wonder why they didn’t do that? May has to do with legally be responsible for someone getting hurt climbing up to the loft? Hmmm…

  • anne stansell
    August 6, 2016, 7:11 pm

    This is as so many have said a truly practical idea. I sincerely hope the city doesn’t screw it up. The poor guy who built all those little shelters on wheels that people could move, in California screwed royally by local goverment. Hard to believe it could happen in California, but it did. Sorry I have scoured the internet for the link, actually I think tiny house orginally carried the mans story. It is nowhere to be found I guess the powers that be want it off the internet. Anyway good luck to this organization.

  • Kay
    August 6, 2016, 9:34 pm

    I would also like a copy of the plans. I’ve been looking for the dimensions, and can’t find them in the text or video. Thank you!

  • Jonathan
    August 7, 2016, 12:49 am

    I think this group put the cart before the horse on this deal. I own property about an hour outside madison. It is my opinion, they should relocated the people they wanted to help to big flats. For the longest time, there was a 5 arce parcel of land for sale. When it finally sold, the owner get $5,300 for it. It wasn’t all that wide ( 250 wide, I believe) but it was long. They could have broke it down in 10 lots. The county there allows you two manufacted travel style trailers, and one shed up to 149 square feet. They could have used the money they spent to build the first two houses to buy the land. They could have got a professional surveyor to donate some time. Many subvisions out there just have dirt roads. Once that happened, they could have found free travel trailers on craigslist to put on the lots. It’s not hard to find someone willing to give away a travel trailer out there. It’s also not hard to find odd sized heat treated pallets out there. The people could break down the pallets, and use the pallet wood to fix the trailer and build the shed.

  • Jo
    August 7, 2016, 12:21 pm

    I think one answer for the poor in large cities is to for them to have some land outside of the city and skills to be self sustaining and not needing to always rely on govt handouts.
    This might require the generosity of land owners in suitable areas, and people that are willing to teach such skills to the homeless poor.

  • Jonathan
    August 7, 2016, 10:06 pm

    I think Jo is on the right track. The area I was talking about is very rural. I picked up a 3/4 of an acre lot for $770. If someone had a self contained manufacted travel trailer, they could haul it out there with no issues. A water collection system could be set up with 55 gallon barrels – 3 area businesses give them away for free. Habor frieght has cheap solar panels systems that could be expanded on. We respect our property, because we saved our money to buy the property and add ons, put in the labor to clear the land and restore travel trailer, and paid our taxes. Taxes are $138 a year – no hoa fees.

  • Erika Jarden
    August 8, 2016, 12:27 pm

    I live and work in Madison. I’ve watched this tiny house community grow and prosper, and I hope they get more property and funding. The idea looks nice on paper, and in practice it’s lovely.
    There is a central permanent structure, with facilities available to the residents for sanitation needs. The site itself is on a corner where the major bus routes cross, giving access to reliable transportation all over the city. The residents can get to their appointments with only a bit of fuss.
    They have a lovely garden there, and do a lot of shared produce. They’ve started building sheds and chicken coops for sale, to raise money for the community, and they’re solidly built and I’m saving up for a coop.
    This is a great success story for everyone involved, and I hope that more cities do something similar.

  • jm
    August 8, 2016, 4:12 pm

    A lot of homeless people choose to be homeless. That’s a fact. I’m not sure tiny homes on wheels is the most efficient housing for them. Occupy Madison with homeless people? Sounds like a great idea…if you are nowhere near Madison.
    I remember when they let all the people out of mental institutions and onto the streets–completely unprepared. They were instantly homeless, and had mental problems to boot. Not all people can ever be fully functional in regard to living on their own. I think some of the other countries have better housing solutions. No point in trying to reinvent the wheel.

  • Joyce
    August 13, 2016, 4:30 pm

    I wanted to study the features more closely but the video was too fast on speed and I could not get it to pause. The concept and features are nice. I missed the length and width of this unit. Can one get the plan and then build with their own modifications?

  • Jonathan
    August 15, 2016, 9:26 pm

    Thanks for the update! I’m glad to hear their plans are working about for some people. My question is why do the trailers have to be so big, if they have a community center just feet away? It seems to me, if they build them much smaller they could have helped more people. Not only that, but it unlikely those tiny homes will ever get off there lot. If they would have build say 4×7 folding ice shanty style, it would have costed much less, they could have had more people on the lot, and could have been more easily placed. I don’t have space in my yard for 8×20 tiny house, but there is plenty of room for 4×7 ice shanty. When my brother was homeless we let sleep in our ice shanty.

  • Jody
    August 18, 2016, 12:18 am

    One word. AWESOME!

    October 12, 2016, 9:10 am

    I love this, it just proves my point…! We need to have more of these builds across the country.. And we need to have written in to law that every state set aside land for it’s homeless.. Only we as a whole can eradicate this disease we try to ignore and claim does not exist in our country..Our government says it’s getting better, but clearly it’s not if these people are still building and working together trying to eradicate the problem that big business and government says no longer is happening… What ever happened to give me your poor and tired huddled masses, or for what purpose to watch them languish in our streets… This is why I spend all the time that I do on here writing all these posts.. I know I am only one person but we are supposed to lead by example.. Are we not…? Don’t be sheep and follow others to the slaughter, fight with me, chose to make a conscious decision to fight over priced housing.. People are showing us it can be done every day but we chose to pay these people big money for something that should be affordable to us all and is our inalienable right to pursue happiness,and what is more happier than being able to be warm and secure in your own house..!

    • Jonathan
      October 13, 2016, 9:49 am

      It shouldn’t be the government’s job to provide these people with land. if Madison was so concerned and thought this was a valued project, they could donate land. Madison has a large number of county owned lots, that where got though tax deed forclosure. The problem is zoning requiring a person to build 1200 to 2000 square foot minimum houses. More people could afford homes if minimum codes were lower. Businesses are not the problem. Example: the heating and cooling business by my house in the city sells a heating or cooling unit. They unbox the unit, and the customer picks it up. The pallets they come on are odd size. No one in the area buys pallets like this, so they give them away. I get 80 to 90 pallets a week. The side boards are 4x4x8 and top and bottom boards are 2x8x4. If I keep going all winter, I will have the material to build a 2,000 square foot house on my rural property. There is also place about 12 miles away that gives away pallets that are 3×12 – side boards 4x4x12/top and bottom boards 2x4x3.

  • Michele
    October 12, 2016, 3:51 pm

    Yes. An actual home with a bathroom and a place to cook a meal is preferable to just a box. This is a step in the right direction for large cities where homelessness is prevalent. The next step is to get a government grant to buy a piece of property to put them on. The video didn’t say, but how are they getting electricity to power their little oven, lights and hopefully, a heater?

  • Jonathan
    October 13, 2016, 10:17 am

    I think the biggest problem is tiny house people don’t want to buy their land or pay rent. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to build till next year, so I listed the property on craigslist for rent. The tiny house people wanted to pull weeds in garden in exchange for 1/2 the crop, lot rent, and electric usage. When I told them I didn’t have a garden and rent was a $150 a month you pay your own electric, most hung up with out saying another word. I had one of you tiny house people found where it was, and with out even talking to me, move there house on to the property. It was a huge legal battle to get them off my land. The cinder blocks I was going to use for the basement, were used to build a wall around the property.

  • LuAnn
    August 1, 2017, 6:31 pm

    P.s. I received no help from the government whatsoever while homeless except my SSDI.

  • Margaret Burkett
    August 2, 2017, 12:02 pm

    I love the information that your newsletter provides. I would really love some updates on some of the posts; like this one about the houses for the homeless in Wisconsin. Was it a success? Are they still doing it? Are they supplying the program plan to other cities or groups that might be interested in a program. It would also be nice to see a little note at the top that this article was a reposting. I had not seen it before and I was caught off guard when the article said they were planning to get so many done by the end of 2014.

    Thanks. Keep up the good work.

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