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Inside the DIY effort to deliver tiny homes to homeless people

By Lauren Hepler, San Francisco Chronicle, May 1, 2022

“Jay Samson [is] the [NASA] engineer behind grassroots emergency housing effort Simply Shelter.

“Every other weekend for the past year, Samson has gathered friends, co-workers, and volunteers to build the boxes with … slanted walls, small triangular windows, locking doors, and solar charging stations. Once complete, the shelters are hand-delivered to homeless neighbors — all without asking permission from cities, police, or agencies that administer California’s multibillion-dollar homeless-services budget.

“With six micro homes now scattered around San Jose and Santa Cruz, Simply Shelter is part of a wave of homeless aid spearheaded by ordinary residents during the pandemic.

“Alex Londos, the 41-year-old Santa Cruz climate activist who designed the ‘Micro Tiny Homes’ that inspired Simply Shelter [said,] ‘It’s not a solution for the homeless problem. … It’s a really good solution for people who are suffering.’

“Simply Shelter was born after Samson saw an interview with Londos about the first two micro homes he built in Santa Cruz in late 2020. A plan to work together emerged: Build more shelters, canvas cities to find residents in particularly dire, and start moving people in. The hope was that small units in good condition wouldn’t attract much attention from police, but wheels mounted on the units provided a way to move people quickly if needed.

Across … [Santa Cruz County] … which was home to … 2,167 homeless residents as of 2019, costly legal battles over encampments and new laws limiting camping and sleeping in vehicles have stirred debate. A 2019 grand jury report titled ‘Big Problem, Little Progress’ tallied 279 year-round homeless shelter beds and 16 in-patient mental health beds in [the county].

“[Samson is] working to establish partnerships to help with underlying challenges, like addiction resources and connections to housing, and considering whether to turn Simply Shelter into a nonprofit.”

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