Help build micro-homes for our homeless on May 29

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

39 thoughts on “Help build micro-homes for our homeless on May 29”

  1. Micro housing is one of my favorite “new”concepts.
    In place, of course, for many centuries for the Indigenous Peoples of the Sierra Foothills.
    May be a great way to house people in this new challenging century.
    I like the Meeks site for such a purpose.
    Mixed housing, with walking trails into the Basin.

  2. I read this morning about drug court grads in Woodland who recently made it through a very intensive and successful program that only could be accomplished by the use of the courts. Are the lucky ones those whose behavior was so egregious that they lost the option to misbehave without tough consequences while at the same time receiving the support to develop a healthy lifestyle? Or are the unlucky ones those who rely on others to soften the consequences of their choices without providing them a path back to sanity and independence? No doubt it is a kind thing to provide the homeless with compartments to sleep safely in. I believe that those who instead receive the opportunity to change their tough circumstances are the ones who are better off. I wish it were otherwise but tough love coupled with accessible opportunity is the formula for recovering lost lives.

    1. The overcrowding of our jail system is about to put 20,000 plus back out on the streets. Doesn’t look like the jails have been rehabbing, or they will not be rehabbing, in the near future.

      The fewer sick humans who are out there serving as bacteria and virus incubators, the better. Keeping a human warm and dry prevents this to a certain extent. It also improves the human’s attitude towards finding work.

      One of the summers I worked at Tahoe during college, I found an abandoned construction shack near what was then Lake Tahoe Hotel at Incline Village. Had old bedsprings and a piece of plywood, onto which I placed my foam pad and sleeping bag. It was open air, but the roof was good, and it had a 3.5 million dollar view of the lake.

      I still have the Bozak speakers I bought with part of that summer’s earnings. Roofs are good things, listened to the Watts riots on a transistor radio, while watching moon and stars reflected off of Tahoe, and then there was swimming each morning…..surreal situation…

      1. I did something similar in East Oregon while working on a large farm to pay for college. There was a cabin there left untouched by an early homesteader the kind farmer let me live in. I baked bread in a wood fired oven and hauled water. It was surreal. In the end I bought a motorcycle to fulfill a dream of mine to ride home on Highway 1, which turned out to be a very harrowing experience.

        I wish every homeless person could have such an experience but they won’t as long as there are people who pity them and give them things instead of making a way for them to save themselves.

      2. I’d love to be able to open our place up to such structures and potential part time workers in trade, but insurance and lawyers have put an end to such practices. When government realizes that a program that relieves owners of liability, by either taking it over, or by denying any claims arising, would do much to get people back on their feet, great.

        In the meantime, last summer we had a close call trying to do just that, with a guy who turned out to have deeper mental problems than we first recognized. After he disappeared for a couple of weeks with no word, and a few items not worth more than $200, he showed up again has if nothing had happened, and minus our stuff, and then he became even more vociferous about how we should be living.

        How to pre-screen such workers/sharecroppers, I do not know, but I do know we are not up to doing it correctly ourselves.

        We have learned a lot about the person whom we knew casually, who recommended him strongly…

    1. If you named it Gorilla Love, you might have a very valuable sponsor in Gorilla Duct Tape. Camouflage paint jobs might not be a bad idea… A good artist could paint their right into the landscape. There’s a Japanese artist who is a past master at this art, painting himself to fit invisibly into the background.

  3. I lived in a mobile home once that, when I came home from work and school, the shag carpeting was frozen solid–like an ice rink. No heat–one of those little gray heaters to thaw the school socks–it worked. Still remember the feel of those socks…Kate

    1. Very delicately, Frisch…and with great panache…hey, how went your magic underpants moment? I hope he angel moron was good to you…Kate

    2. Cake today comes in plastic bags in convenient bite sized pieces full of white flour, sugar, hydrogenated fats and preservatives. Are they called micro-doughnuts?

  4. You want to know something really amusing Zaller? I was 16 and left a huge house, equipped with two portuguese housekeepers to live there. Why ever do you think a young girl would run to an ice rink like that? Think I was just wanting to “cut up”? Freeze and misbehave? Seriously? You’re a laugh riot Zaller…oh, and I don’t pity the homeless…actually, I kind of pity you…Kate

    1. has an interesting definition of pity that fits with the micro-shelter concept. You might be employing a different usage?

      sympathetic or kindly sorrow evoked by the suffering, distress, or misfortune of another, often leading one to give relief or aid or to show mercy.

      Ending homelessness requires empowerment:

      2. the giving of an ability; enablement or permission

    2. I can imagine why, kate.

      To live simply for a summer is a lark, an adventure. To do it because you have to in order to preserve life and limb, or because you are ill, mentally or physically, is an entirely different proposition. If you have never been there or don’t have the compassion to put yourself in those shoes then don’t judge.

      I know a lot of people who think abuse is an excuse. No, abuse is a denigration of spirit that strips a person of many of the tools needed to succeed and survive. Overcoming it done with varying success. Same goes with our vets who are working through PTSD. Indeed the PTSD that is the result of abuse, childhood or otherwise, is really the same disease with a different cause. Some struggle through sober and some turn to drink and drugs, but it is a struggle. Some make it, at least outwardly, and some never do; but I’m tired of those who blame the victims and don’t think they deserve a hand up or even a hand out from time to time. Sometimes you do need to give a person a fish before they can learn to fish.

      For the self-described Bible believing (sometimes I wonder), I think this is why Jesus spent so much time talking about those who are poor. I wish more Christians would actually follow Christ’s teachings. Jesus never said the poor were unworthy. He said that what you do for the least you do for Him. What some call may call pity, I would call mercy. I think that many who call themselves Christian are actually members of the “church” of Ayn Rand. To be clear, I’m not talking about any individual here, but about what I see overarching in this very selfish, tea-party influenced society.

      Yeah, why does anyone leave an otherwise comfortable home? I can imagine.

      1. “Sometimes you do need to give a person a fish before they can learn to fish.”

        I don’t agree with the idea of giving people a fish and leaving them on their own to learn how to fish. The result of this approach is to encourage helpless dependence. People first need the opportunity to learn the skills of independence. These must be taught. Jesus was first a teacher and when he fed people he did it so he could teach.

        I’m just forming my working theory about the forces that create homelessness and how to counteract them. I am convinced that clear boundaries and a dignified learning community are essential for success. That is what I strive for in the home I privately started and run for the homeless and it seems to work but more development is needed. The micro-home misses on all of these points.

      2. Greg,
        I think you are missing the whole point of the micro-shelters. They aren’t a solution but a band aid to a bad situation. I know you do good work but instead of criticizing the plan get in touch with Reinette and those who are planning the project to help them out with your experiences of success and failures. There is no need to invent the wheel twice.

        We are talking about human beings here not having a pissing contest. I would much rather error on the side of being compassionate than on the side of being apathetic.

      3. Ben,

        We agree that something real and substantial needs to be done to reduce or eliminate homelessness. Can we also agree that thoughtful open minded discussions are the only realistic way to develop effective solutions? This blog could be a forum for sincere divergent viewpoints without labeling or judging the person making them. Why are these micro-homes any better than a tent? Has anything like this been done before successfully? What about cooking and sanitation? What about couples , families, disabilities, claustrophobia, carbon monoxide poisoning? Is there a legal location where they can be placed? Who will manage, maintain and assign them? Who would move them? Do they have heat? What is the factual basis to assume they address the causes homelessness in any way and aren’t just kicking the can down the road?

        Those who think this is a workable idea may know better than me and might prove me wrong. Great, I hope so. I really wish this easy idea would work. It certainly will have a better chance of working if it’s developers listen carefully to those who think it won’t.

      4. Re Greg’s “Can we also agree that thoughtful open minded discussions are the only realistic way to develop effective solutions?”

        Agreed. I’d like to know if such housing’s been tried elsewhere, & what we can learn (in dos and don’ts) from those experiences.
        (history being “all the data that we have so far”)

        As for “Why are these micro-homes any better than a tent?”, that was my first reaction too – but then I realized that these could be locked, where a tent cannot. Also, it’s been pointed out that a tent on wet ground can get soggy, right? (it’s been a while…); these are raised.

        Are those features enough of a plus to offset the drawbacks of higher-profile & more difficult maneuverability? I don’t know; again, this is where learning from other areas’ (& occupants’) experiences would be good.

      5. Greg,

        Your questions are valid if this project was making the claim of being the final answer, it’s not. It’s a little structure that has more support than a tent that can be off the ground. Personally I think they should be placed in common spots with the caveat of no garbage should be seen around or piled up inside them. Nobody has to use them if they don’t want. Where I lived in CO there was tons of hiking above tree line. Like many places people, including myself, have built and used little temporary shelters to get out of thunder storms because of the danger of being struck by lightening. Not much to them but they were shelters. I also lived off and on for many years in a tent/shack about 45 minutes from town in CO/ HI. I did this by choice. Although I had a job and the circumstances were different, I have a little understanding of what life without the amenities we are accustom to in the US is like.

        What I think this project does more than anything it allows the community do something for an issue that they feel is important and allows those who are homeless to see they have some support. Knowing there are people who care about you is huge for peoples psyche.

      6. Ben,

        I’ve lived out of vehicles for years on animal foods, dumpster food and food stamps, while I put myself through school. I never considered myself homeless, though, but rather enjoying a fine lifestyle.

        My biggest problem is that the micro-shelters are a feel good band aid over a festering wound. The effort is siphoning off energy and resources desperately needed to treat the wound.

        Why not remodel one of those useless motor homes into a sleeping/kitchen/bathroom facility like

        With a tightly fit audience such as this, a facilitator could guide a co-intelligent discussion generating a learning community that supported each individual in his/her process to become self sufficient and a contributor.

      7. I agree. Maybe you might be the person to do it? You have the proven organizational skills of past projects, understanding of the lifestyle, experience with the red tape, and good ideas.

      8. Do you mean the Green Tortoise Homeless School? I think it would work.

        My next project will be to attempt to address the disenfranchised youth problem in this county. It’s really outrageous and heartbreaking to watch teens prostitute themselves to perverts in the Safeway parking lot for drugs. Did you know?

        If anyone out there is serious about treating that wound, please let me know.

  5. This is going to be interesting seeing the homeless cart these things around from place to place. They might actually qualify for the Good Sams discount at campgrounds since they are mobile.

  6. Exactly Gail. Zaller is busy reliving Kerouac’s “On the Road” in his mind. Self-preservation (via homelessness or any other route) is a much more fearful, fetid, screaming animal…and requires a resourcefulness and resilience that most small, petty haters lack…Kate

    1. Kate, it sounds like we need another meet-up. It’s just too easy to assign a (wrong) personality to someone we haven’t met.

  7. From the video:
    It’s this Sunday, 9am-4pm, Nevada County Food Bank parking lot.

    Physical Address: 310 Railroad Ave #200, Grass Valley

  8. This is sort of a side question but does anybody know why the armory can’t be used on an interm basis till Hospitality House finds its new digs? (it has the space for 40 beds, a kitchen, restroom, not to sure if it has showers.) I can’t help but think (although the intensions are good) this micro-house idea will become a logistical nightmare down the road.

  9. Peter,
    I think much of what the project is about is to get away from all the insurance BS, red tape, and excuses. I know people are working day and night trying to get a building but every corner they turn there is an obstacle.

    This is just my opinion.

  10. That’s a hard dilemma for any community. It seems that I recall somewhere in our legislative past a “good samaritan” law…whether that measure has been utilized re housing the homeless population is another question. Governor Brown has been encouraging increasing local control and decision making. Perhaps it would be helpful for the next winter. Stopping FEMA money like the house tea baggers are busy doing in Joplin and elsewhere is the coldest, nastiest, heartless, most f&%$ed up non-answer I’ve seen out of any human of late. Damn their black, souless hearts for it…and just in time for memorial day…Kate

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