When Oakland-based artist Gregory Kloehn—he of living in a converted dumpster fame—made his first micro home on wheels out of roadside trash, he didn't plan on donating it to his neighborhood's homeless. But when someone knocked on his door one evening and asked if he had a spare tarp, he realized he finally had a use for what he had made. "I didn't know why I built it," Kloehn explained over the phone. "I just kept pushing it around my studio. But when I went inside to look, walking past the home I thought, 'What am I doing with this? I've been tripping over this for months.'" He told them to come back tomorrow and they'd have a home. The following day, he presented it to them with a bottle of champagne.
Which is how a kind of personal dare to build a found-material home in a single day turned into the Homeless Homes Project. These days, Kloehn supervises a team of volunteers working on up to five at once. Naturally, he's had to change his methods a bit to scale up the operation, often picking up materials like shipping pallets from restaurant suppliers and business eager to get rid of them. He pays for screws, nails, glue, and the gas it takes him to drive around Oakland out of pocket. By his estimate, each home costs him somewhere between $30 and $50.
Where the recipients of Kloehn's homes used to have their temporary shelters thrown out by city workers—as he puts it, "throwing the homes away and not really doing anything about the people"—now they can simply wheel them to another location. Of course, the mobility that makes the project possible can be a double-edged sword. One home has been stolen, and another vandalized, but Kloehn describes most of them as very well kept up. "The response," he says, "is 'here's my home. I can keep this for a long time.'"
Kloehn and his volunteers have made about 15 so far, and production is increasing. Due to the unpredictable nature of the materials that Kloehn is working with, the dwellings are as diverse in structure as they are in color scheme. Check out more of them at his website.
· gregory kloehn repurposes trash into vibrant houses for the homeless [Design Boom]
· All Oakland coverage [Curbed National]
· All adaptive reuse coverage [Curbed National]
· All micro homes coverage [Curbed National]