Artist transforms trash into awesome tiny homes for the homeless

Gregory Kloehn
© Gregory Kloehn

We've written previously about Gregory Kloehn, the California-based artist who turned a dumpster into a deluxe, one-room home a few years ago. The unconventional sculptor has since turned his attention to addressing the lack of shelter for the homeless in his hometown of Oakland, by building a series of customized, tiny homes for displaced individuals, all made from salvaged materials.

© Gregory Kloehn
© Gregory Kloehn

Kloehn has dubbed this grassroots, community-oriented initiative the Homeless Homes Project, where junked materials are transformed into low-cost, ultra-tiny homes for people living in the streets. The idea is to "diminish money's influence over the building process," with Kloehn and his collaborators collecting whatever they can find from illegal dumps, household and commercial waste that can be reused to create small, habitable spaces. Kloehn explains the story behind the project over at Tiny House Blog:

I was inspired to take these same materials back to my shop and put them together in a more permanent fashion. After about a week of collecting and building, I had a 21st century hunter/gather home, built from the discarded fruits of the urban jungle.

This sat at my studio for a number of months, just collecting dust. One rainy night, Charlene, a homeless woman I’ve known for some 10 years, asked if I had a tarp for her. I told her I didn’t have one and I went back inside. As I walked past the home, it hit me, I should give her this. I ran back out and told her to come back tomorrow and I would have a home for her. She and her husband Oscar came back the next day. I handed them a set of keys and a bottle of champagne and watched them push it down the street. It felt so good that I started making another one that same day.

© Gregory Kloehn
© Gregory Kloehn

You can see that Kloehn puts a lot of forethought and creativity put into each of the little houses; an old washing machine front becomes a window, another features a skylight, while other components include pallets, bed frames, futon frames, doors, plywood, OSB, paint, packing crates, car consoles, auto glass and even refrigerator shelves. All of the homes sport wheels to allow ease of movement on the street, in addition to doors, windows, storage and even locks to give occupants a sense of security and privacy.

© Gregory Kloehn
© Gregory Kloehn
© Gregory Kloehn
© Gregory Kloehn

Most of the homes are painted in bright colours to give residents a sense of well-being and happiness. They may not be as picture-perfect as some of the tiny homes we see, but they do embody a sense of hope and belonging that any human being would need. Says Kloehn:

There is a spontaneity and playfulness in making small homes that traditional houses do not offer. It reminds me of making forts as a kid, no city planners, no architects, no crews, no bank loans, just my ideas and my hands.

Check out more of Gregory Kloehn's work on his website, and see many more images of these tiny homes over at the Homeless Homes Project.

Tags: Artists | Arts | Small Spaces