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

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. The idea was to get money to construct similar shelters for other homeless people in his South Los Angeles neighborhood.

He had no grand ambitions. He just wanted to lend a helping hand. In Los Angeles, thousands of residents are 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. He 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. He built it 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, hanging up a "Home Sweet Home" sign.

The GoFundMe campaign is called Tiny House, Huge Purpose. It has brought in nearly $60,000 in less than a month. And Summers' inbox is overflowing. He has received 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. He wants 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 regularly moves the home. It is small enough to fit in a parking space. It could be moved about every three days.

The structure is so small that it wouldn't require permits if built on private property, said Luke Zamperini. He is the 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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COMMENTS (229)
  • Josephl-Pav
    5/12/2015 - 09:53 a.m.

    We need more people like this in the world. All this help seems small but makes a big difference. This idea could save many lives.

  • Laurad-Pav
    5/12/2015 - 09:56 a.m.

    I think that this is amazing. This man is trying to create a safe home for the homeless and that is just amazing. These homeless people must be so grateful that he is doing this. I think that this man is an amazing role model.

  • Lindsaya-Pav
    5/12/2015 - 09:56 a.m.

    This man has truly made a difference in the world. Although he thought these buildings would cease after a few houses, he has helped more homeless people than he could ever imagine. This story proves how one person can make a change.

  • Miah-Pav
    5/12/2015 - 09:56 a.m.

    This man is very, very kind and helpful. He puts aside his own time to help the homeless by giving them homes! The houses are tiny, but its better than nothing. This man is truly amazing!

  • Elenao-Pav
    5/12/2015 - 09:58 a.m.

    This man is a hero, he sets out a goal and achieves them. He demonstrates ways we can help the community and people of the community, especially when these people have no way of living a healthy stable life. Its easy to think of ideas to contribute in society, but we get lazy and never accomplish those ideas just because we are one person, yet we don't realize how many people there are in this world that could help one by one.

  • Rachelc-Pav
    5/12/2015 - 09:59 a.m.

    I think this is amazing because it isn't too expensive, and will save the many lives of homeless people. Just getting together to build these tiny homes will make a huge difference in the community all together.

  • Reillym-Pav
    5/12/2015 - 10:00 a.m.

    This is so inspiring! The homes look kind of cool too. I think that the homeless people being helped are probably very thankful and appreciative. I couldn't imagine what a big adjustment that must have been. I think it's intelligent how Summers built it too. He made sure it was small enough so they didn't need a permit to keep it on land, was able to fit in a parking spot, and only cost 500 dollars.

  • keighanat-Goo
    5/12/2015 - 10:29 a.m.

    A man provides tiny houses for the homeless. This can mean so much more than it shows. The text states, "After Elvis Summers built a tiny house on wheels for a woman who had been sleeping on the streets, he launched a crowd-funding campaign on the internet." He did this to raise money, so he could also do it for other homeless people in his South Los Angeles neighborhood. The text also states that, "He had no grand ambitions. He just wanted to lend a helping hand. In Los Angeles, thousands of residents are without roofs over their heads." This man is just somebody that wants everyone to have a roof over their head like everyone deserves to. The evidence from this text illustrates that there are still many people out there that care about other people, and want everyone to be happy. A small house like that means so much to the homeless because it's more than they had before, and now they know someone actually cares.

  • nickj-Goo
    5/12/2015 - 10:45 a.m.

    This is a really cool mission going on in Los Angeles. Summer is doing a really cool project helping the homeless and providing them with a place to stay. "Smokie" and the others would be so thankful and would do work so other homeless people can have a place to stay.

  • pablov918
    5/12/2015 - 10:55 a.m.

    This is so inspiring the man has a job and still helps homeless people have a home he inspired almost a lot of people i hope those who doesn't have a home to get one by people building small houses

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