Man provides tiny houses to homeless
Man provides tiny houses to homeless Irene "Smokie" McGhee, a woman who had been sleeping on the streets in a South Los Angeles neighborhood, listens to music on the doorway of her newly built tiny home. Elvis Summers appears at left (AP photos)
Man provides tiny houses to homeless
Lexile: 1270L

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After Elvis Summers built a tiny house on wheels for a woman who had been sleeping on the streets, he launched a crowdfunding campaign on the internet to construct similar shelters for other homeless people in his South Los Angeles neighborhood.

He had no grand ambitions beyond lending a helping hand in a city with thousands of residents without roofs over their heads.

"Honestly I thought I'd raise enough money to help a dozen people, call it a day, and then go back to stressing about my job," said the 38-year-old, who runs an online apparel store.

Summers never thought more than 5.6 million people would watch a YouTube video of him constructing the 8-foot-long house for "Smokie," a grandmother who's been homeless for more than a decade. He estimates he spent less than $500 on plywood, shingles, a window and a door. The video ends with Smokie doing a little jig and hanging up a "Home Sweet Home" sign.

The GoFundMe campaign called Tiny House, Huge Purpose has brought in nearly $60,000 in less than a month. And Summers' inbox is overflowing with offers for help from carpenters, homeless advocates, retirees and children as young as 6.

Now Summers, who sports a blue mohawk and wraparound shades, suddenly considers himself a man with a mission. He has started a nonprofit and reached out to Los Angeles officials to get the city involved in his plan to build more tiny homes for transients.

"People are calling it a movement," he said. "I'm humbled. But now I can't turn my back on it."

Builders said they would donate materials, contractors offered to help in the design of the small wheeled structures, and chefs said they would to bring food to the construction sites.

Summers said he wants to hire homeless people to help with the construction. Smokie said she would be the first person to sign up.

"I'm ready to start building," she said. "Give people a good night's rest. Someplace warm."

It is unclear if the city would enforce rules for these homes. Smokie said police have told her she won't be bothered as long as she moves the home, which is small enough to fit in a parking space, every three days.

And the structure is so small that it wouldn't require permits if built on private property, said Luke Zamperini, spokesman for the city Building and Safety department.

"We do not consider it a dwelling or a building as it does not meet the definition of either," Zamperini said.

Critical thinking challenge: How can a tiny house have a huge purpose?

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Assigned 30 times

  • ConnerC-Kut
    5/14/2015 - 07:39 a.m.

    I think it is good that people like Elvis Summers are now taking action by helping homeless people new homes, bringing them out of the darkness and cold of the streets. With this new foundation I believe this could not only be successful, but also reduce the homeless population and increase the homed population.

  • Joni-Pav
    5/14/2015 - 09:53 a.m.

    I think this is a really great idea. They do not have to pay taxes on the house even though they can not afford taxes. But everyone needs some place to sleep and this is a great idea

  • TaylorSeifert-Ste
    5/14/2015 - 10:45 a.m.

    This is really awesome! I think that people should spend their money helping others, the way Summers is, instead of buying themselves another car or new phone. In the end, we are all people that are equal, no matter what we have in life or have been through, and I wish others would realize that.

  • madisontart72
    5/14/2015 - 12:52 p.m.

    I think this is awesome! A lot of people are homeless, and are sleeping on the streets. They also don't feel safe at night, because they have no locked doors. Well now they do, because Elvis Summers has started a GoFundMe campaign and is building more tiny homes with the help of professionals in various fields. I did some research and over 3.5 million people are without homes every year, and 23% are military veterans, and 35% are families. I believe the population of homeless people is going to start dropping, because of this man's big heart.

  • dianaz-Che
    5/14/2015 - 01:44 p.m.

    I think that what this man did was honestly amazing. It started with one thought and ended with him helping a ton of people that are homeless. I think that there should be more people like him, and more ideas like this.

  • tyrekb-Che
    5/14/2015 - 01:47 p.m.

    That Is good that this man is making houses for the homeless. Its good that a man in the world have sympathy for people who don't have a house and make one for them.

  • stephanieg-Che
    5/14/2015 - 01:50 p.m.

    He is doing a good thing building homes for the homeless and providing them with a place to keep warm and dry when it rains. I find it amazing that he thought he was going to build a couple dozen house but turns out that he has earned 60,000 in just a month.

  • alexc-Che
    5/14/2015 - 01:54 p.m.

    Elvis Summers built a tiny house on wheels for a woman who had been sleeping on the streets, he launched a crowdfunding campaign on the internet to construct similar shelters for other homeless people in his South Los Angeles neighborhood. Elvis is a great person with a heart because he is doing this for all the homeless people that can't afford shelter.

  • DRontarin-Cas
    5/15/2015 - 10:09 a.m.

    I think that this is a really good idea. I say that because even though they are homeless, they should not be sleeping anywhere on the streets. They should have some type of shelter over their heads to keep them safe and healthy.

  • GDesiree-Cas
    5/16/2015 - 12:22 a.m.

    I think that this story is amazing. It goes to show that there are still people in this world that care for others. Tiny houses can have a huge purpose because this means that the homeless people won't be out on the streets in the bad weather, and also that they will have a place to lay their head at night.

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