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IPFS News Link • Homeless

Are Tiny 'Homes' for Houseless People Solving a Problem, or Creating One?

•, By Roshan Abraham

On January 6, Birmingham, Alabama became the latest city to propose so-called "tiny homes" as a short-term way to address unsheltered homelessness. In what he called a "Home For All" pilot project, Mayor Randall Woodfin announced a plan to purchase 100 sheds for the city's unhoused population and a plan to provide on-site social support, including navigators to transition people into permanent housing. By January 10, the Birmingham city council had approved the pilot, agreeing to use $1 million in federal funds to purchase an initial 50 sheds and then acquire another 50 after a year if the pilot is successful. 

But advocates for the unhoused across the country are vocally opposed to the use of sheds, which can be as small as 64 square feet and are largely being built by for-profit companies. In Birmingham, for example, the shacks are being sold by a Washington-based startup called Pallet, which specializes in what it calls "rapid-response shelter villages." 

The U.S. has seen a 3.4 percent increase in unsheltered homelessness since 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), while the overall unhoused population has increased only .3 percent in that time. For a variety of reasons, including unsafe conditions within city shelter systems, people without houses turn to living in DIY encampments using tents or other makeshift shelter. These encampments tend to stoke the ire of neighboring locals with homes, and are often cleared in violent (and expensive) displays of force by police

Encampment sweeps by police have already preceded the arrival of shelter villages in Los Angeles County, and more "beds" for the unhoused have been proposed to justify sweeps of encampments.