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: 890L

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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. 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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  • ChrisG1106
    5/12/2015 - 11:13 a.m.

    I think this is very heartwarming because most people wouldn't help the homeless as much as Summers did. But he built tiny houses for the homless that do not need expensive permits if they are on private property.

  • 9LoganH
    5/12/2015 - 11:19 a.m.

    its great that this man is doing such a nice thing for the homeless and he asks for nothing in return. also it was very kind of those builders to supply him with building materials so he didn't have to buy them. it can be transported so easily and it doesn't interfere with the laws because its so small the homeless don't have to pay for it as long as its on private property.

  • ChrisRRojo
    5/12/2015 - 11:54 a.m.

    I think he is a really generouse to do this thing for a person with no shelter offer their head. We need more people like him in the world

  • JoseFBlue
    5/12/2015 - 11:57 a.m.

    This is a awesome thing that he is doing to help homeless people in LA It is a cool thing he is doing I hope he could get enough money to build as many houses to the homeless people in LA.

  • jocelynt-Rat
    5/12/2015 - 12:07 p.m.

    One tiny house can make a big difference!!!! So many homeless people liveing on streets. Without a rooftop over there head! And I bet a homeless person would be super happy to have a roof over there heads.

  • siennas-Rat
    5/12/2015 - 12:15 p.m.

    How can a tiny house have a huge purpose?
    This person was in need of a home it dose not mater if it was a small or big house what would you rather do sleep on the stret or have a tinny warm home that portecs you and keeps a rofe over your head? I know I would chose a tinny home to keep me warm at nite that is what I would say and I would also think that I am very lucky that someone that I do not know build a house for me.

    That is what I think and if you are someone that wants to make a difrents in the world think about the persone that did that for that person to make a persons day and even life change forever!!

  • mckenzies-Rat
    5/12/2015 - 12:15 p.m.

    A tiny house can have a huge purpose because if you don't have a home and you are homeless you are outside in the
    Rain and snow and the unbearable heat if they had just a tiny house would make a huge purpose

  • rosalees-Rat
    5/12/2015 - 12:15 p.m.

    How can a tiny house have a huge purpose? I Will tel you why because when you set your heart out to other people sleeping on the streets it makes a difference to so many people

  • arkimr1018
    5/12/2015 - 12:44 p.m.

    That is nice of that man to give homeless people small houses. It makes a difference to other people. Now people would be helping the homeless as well.

  • ShyannNBlue
    5/12/2015 - 12:44 p.m.

    This is inspiring to me! I've never heard of this but its amazing how someone would take their free time and help homeless people out. To know homeless people have a nice warm place to sleep is amazing. I hope this kind of help spreads across the USA.

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