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Woman Building Tiny Home for her Homeless Friend

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This is the story of a woman who is building a tiny home for her homeless friend.

This tiny house is still under construction, but when it’s finished and delivered we’ll give you an update.

Lisa Kolvites knows she can’t help every homeless person in San Francisco. That won’t stop her from helping just one, though.

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Woman Building Tiny Home for her Homeless Friend


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Video: Woman Building Tiny Home for her Homeless Friend

Lisa Kolvites knows she can’t help every homeless person in San Francisco. That won’t stop her from helping just one, though.

Source: San Mateo Woman Building Tiny Home In Driveway To Deliver To Homeless Friend | NBC Bay Area

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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!
{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Don Lowery
    May 1, 2016, 9:48 pm

    This is fantastic! I hope to be able to help provide these types of homes in the future…if I can work with some social service agency and/or church who would want to help others.
    I have one fear about this…I hope the police/city doesn’t take his home away and run him out of town like so many other cities are doing to the homeless.

    • Lisa Kolvites
      May 2, 2016, 1:43 pm

      Hi Don, You and I share the same fear. When working toward solutions, failures are inevitable. I don’t know what will happen once the house is delivered, but I’m not going to let that stop me because the need for a solution is still there. I’d rather be the shining example of what not to do than to do nothing. Sharing my failures, as well as my successes, can save many people a lot of time and trouble bringing everyone closer to a solution.
      Keep looking for opportunities to help in ways you can. It’s great to have you on the team working toward putting an end to homelessness. Lisa

      • Don Lowery
        May 4, 2016, 11:40 pm

        Being Anabaptist…I firmly believe we’re here to solve problems…rather than create more or do nothing.

        It’s fantastic what you’re doing. Now…if we can get more people to do the same thing and have a climate of inclusion (rather than fear)…there’s so much we can do for others and ourselves. One of the reasons I love what you’re doing is that about a year ago…my landlord got arrested for domestic violence and I have had a real fear that I would end up like your friend. That is why I am considering cashing out my teaching pension to purchase a cargo trailer and turn that into the first home I would ever own. (Am in my mid-50’s.) My only question is where would I be able to park it to live in and be able to work and worship where I feel being called to? Got my fingers crossed that when I relocate to Western Oregon this next month…I will have this question answered.

        • Lisa Kolvites
          May 8, 2016, 3:22 pm

          Good luck in all that you do! I’m sure you will have an answer when the time comes, and if not.. Keep on doing something. I look forward to seeing your cargo trailer on a “tiny house talk” post. Take lots of pictures, so we can see and delight in your individual solutions to our common problems.

    • Brian
      May 3, 2016, 6:20 am


      how about the houseless. how many of us are 3 steps away! !!!!!!!
      Would you have any contacts or links in Vancouver Island, Canada

      • Don Lowery
        May 4, 2016, 11:42 pm

        Have never been to the area…but when I get to Oregon and get settled down…hope to be able to visit the island.

  • MaryLou
    May 10, 2016, 10:25 pm

    First, I see no mention in the article about whether or not people involved are liberal or conservative and I don’t see how that line can be productive, because there is going to need to be a consensus on how to proceed with the homeless issue or even the tiny house issue. When the tiny house movement began in Madison, Wis. they involved the city at the beginning. the city told them the tiny houses had to be on trailers and that they had to be moved every couple of days so they did not become an issue with traffic and parking. that makes sense. I can see how that would be a safety issue and a courtesy issue. I have never been a big fan of the types of shelters that are being built in L.A. They aren’t really houses but boxes. There were some people building something similar close to where I live and they were catching on fire in the winter when people tried to keep them warm in the winter. I would like t build some houses for the homeless but I have some base requirements I think every person needs. A person needs to be able to stand up in their home. they need to be able to use a toilet. they need to be able to take a shower, even if it is some kind of camp shower. They need to be able to cook. This is a baseline for a home. Now the smallest plan I can come up with and have these needs met is 6×8 ft.

    There was a mention of illegal search and seizure. I think how that may play out is that it won’t apply unless the structure has either a deed or title. If it is built on a trailer it can be licensed as a home made RV. If a tiny slice of land is purchased and the house is permanently adhered then it could be deeded. I think putting an oversized box next to the curb falls short. I think places like Dignity Village answers more need. there is a plot of land around the tiny house. they can provide some of their own food needs with a garden. I look at the house this lady is building for her friend and it is vastly different from the curb box. I think we are going to have to bite the bullet and meet with municipalities and come up with a solution that allows people to help other people.

    • Lisa Kolvites
      May 11, 2016, 4:24 pm

      Thanks for your comment Mary Lou.
      We do need to come up with a different solution. I’d love to see your plans for the 6’x8′. Putting an oversized box on the corner does indeed fall very short, but for now it’s better than having no shelter. I want my friend to have a home, not a box. I don’t want to give my friend something that is going to be dangerous or a big hassle for him. I want to give him a place where he can feel safe and have a sense of security and get a good nights sleep. I also don’t want all of the time and money I’ve spent on this house to go to waste if it’s just going to be taken away from him and thrown in the trash.
      He did request that he be able to stand up inside, and I agree. Have you ever tried putting pants on without being able to stand up? The roof over the bed is lower because he won’t need to stand in that area and it saves on weight. Having a place to urinate and defecate affords a person some dignity and is healthier for everyone. There needs to be a better way of offering this necessity. Everyone will complain when the street is used, but no one is offering an alternative. San Francisco has one of the best composting programs in the country and I would love to work with them to try something I call the Brown Bucket Movement or BBM. It’s a waste collection program that would restore some dignity for many. I just don’t understand why people aren’t more outraged that the city is not providing adequate facilities. Instead, they are blaming the homeless and criminalizing a natural, normal bodily function. It makes me sad and mad.
      Staying clean when living on the street is next to impossible, so there does need to be some water to wash with. Five gallons should be enough for a few days of bathing and morning coffee. A camping stove will heat the water and be used for cooking.
      Putting the house on a trailer would allow licensing and some protection. Do you know how much a trailer costs? I do. The cheapest one I could find was about $2000. Unfortunately, I can’t afford that, or the cost of the registration and insurance. Then you would need a car to move it, which would require a drivers license. My friend doesn’t even have an I.D. It was stolen, along with his birth certificate and anything else you would need to get a new I.D.
      Garvin Thomas, the man who reported my story said to me, “being homeless is a big disadvantage”. And that is exactly what it is. It’s not a crime. It doesn’t make you any less human. It doesn’t void your rights. And if there’s ever a time in some ones life when they are going to need help, it will be when they are homeless. I hope what I am doing to help my friend will inspire others to reach out with compassion and help those that homeless.

      • Mary Lou
        May 12, 2016, 9:46 am

        Good Morning Lisa! I have been mulling this over in my head for years now! There is no one cookie cutter solution, like every thing in the world, I think it is going to have to be multiple solutions. One is for the allotment model that we see in Scandinavian countries, where people get a small plot of ground for gardening and they are allowed to put on a tiny house structure for convenience while there, but in this case it wouldn’t be a home away from home, it would be the primary residence. I could see where a standard house lot approximately, 60’by 120′ in our area could be used to put in three tiny houses with allotment gardens. Cities always have lots that they have had to confiscate for dereliction or back taxes and I think that those lots should be the ones that the tiny house movement targets for the tiny house/allotment movement. Then for the unhealthy people who would not be able to commit to the work of mini farming on an allotment, I think we need to do more of a Madison style approach that resembles a little trailer park. What would be especially nice is if the city would also run electrical hookups and have water stubbed in somewhere so people could carry water to their home or run a hose to a personal holding tank. But to do those things, you have to have the city on your side. The up side is that tiny houses can be easily put on piers and that way can take advantage of marginal land that isn’t fit for standard construction. The other potential I would like to see is through coding. Some suburbs code for McMansions and have regulations that a house has to exceed 3000 sq. foot, etc. so why not code an area for tiny homes? I think the advantage in that is to overcome any stigma of tiny homes only being an option for the homeless. People of many economic backgrounds are drawn to the tiny home so why not give them a place to put their dream dwelling?

        About trailers…. The cheapest I have seen have been through the farm stores. I think they start at around $900. in our area. But to get a trailer that is really sturdy and cheap, I would check around for a trailer made out of an old pick up box. They have a LOT of steel under them and could handle the load. With luck and the media attention you are getting you might be able to find a good samaritan to donate one to you.

        I’d be more than happy to share my 6×8 plan with you. It is working on graph paper but I want to also draw it out in real space ( yea, left over wedding table covers) and make sure that there is sufficient room in the toilet and shower space. I am not sure how you would want to do that.

        One reason I am an advocate of setting up the tiny home properly is that it then gives these folks an address. An address is so important. People can’t draw disability or SS without an address. A person can’t apply for work without an address. We could set up a system where we work with the city for that little piece of land and a homeless person who could get even a crappy part time at McDonalds would be able to purchase their home over time because it would be so inexpensive to do so. Imagine buying a section of a city lot for five thousand payable for over a five year period. Even if that situation required paying utilities, a tiny house’s utilities would be minimal. I see many articles that state that tiny houses run as little as $60. per month. this is affordable for the working homeless. Our society has priced them out of homes and we need to correct that.

        If a city won’t work with you, a county might. When a homeless person is taken to a hospital, due to exposure, what have you, they will be taken to a county facility. I have read that a frostbite treatment and overnight stay can cost the county around $16,000. If you want to get anywhere with a bureaucracy, always appeal to the pocket book.

        Sorry that this is so long… like I have said I have been thinking about this for YEARS!

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