Thursday, July 30, 2020

Are Modular and Tiny Houses the Right Answer for Sheltering the Homeless?

Two of the biggest problems facing our country is providing shelter for the homeless and affordable housing for people that can't afford to buy or rent in areas where they work.

Not too long ago I was talking (before COVID-19) with a director of a homeless shelter in Maryland. She said running her shelter required that strict rules be followed by the homeless such as no addicts, no theft inside the shelter, observation of proper hygiene and they must attend classes on helping them to get back into everyday society.

Her shelter has 54 residents.

I began telling her how cities, primarily in the West, were beginning to use modular construction, tiny houses and shipping containers to provide housing for the homeless and wondered if this was something that could help her.

Her response was not at all what I had expected.

She is totally against the modular housing idea and I have to admit that maybe the cities that are already trying it may be in for a big letdown.

Here are a few of her thoughts on modular and tiny house shelters:

  • Homeless individuals tend to want to talk and be with others like themselves. Housing them in large groups, though not the best solution, is better for their mental well being than giving them a cubicle to sit in alone all day and night. Depression and anxiety will increase.

  • Personal hygiene will begin to be overlooked by many. Her staff works hard to provide all the sundries needed and to promote good hygiene among the homeless.

  • Sanitary conditions of the modular cubicles will become unbearable in many cases as they have never had to wash their clothes as staff members usually do it or make sure that bed linen is clean, walls and floors are clean and bathrooms. If each one had their own modular unit or tiny house, would her staff legally be allowed to enter it to ensure cleanliness.

  • If the units are equipped with kitchens and have furniture, they will be quickly abused and/or sold.

If one of these buildings were offered to her free of charge she said that the cost to ramp up her staff to do housekeeping for each individual unit would force her to close her doors.

After listening to her thoughts about this I have begun to wonder if putting (warehousing) homeless in shipping containers and modular boxes is the best thing to do. Unfortunately I can't think of an alternative.

Your thoughts....

Gary Fleisher is a housing veteran, editor/writer of the, blogs and the ‘coming soon’, Construction Consultant’s Directory. 


1 comment:

  1. Homeless housing is a difficult problem to solve from a housing perspective. It would probably be more beneficial to design prefab wall, ceiling and roof panel systems that are designed for the open concept needs the housing director expressed.