In theory, the goal behind the tiny house movement is to move toward a smaller ecological footprint, greater sustainability, and more affordability.
But in reality, a lot of tiny houses are super expensive. Many totals as much as $60,000 in value.
Even those that cost $20,000 or under may cost way more to construct than a really poor person actually can afford. Plus, most of them need to sit on a plot of land somewhere—and land can be very expensive.
My point here is that even a proper tiny house costs money to build, upkeep, and park. So the tiny house movement is still one of at least a basic level of privilege.
What if you have absolutely nothing, and still want a functional shelter? What if you are homeless and cannot dream of owning or renting a plot of land? Is there a tiny solution which you can actually use? One creative designer named Paul Elkins has decided to tackle that challenge.
Paul has designed a whole range of tiny shelters for emergencies. I’ll share a few of them with you below.
The Homeless Sleeping Pod
This is a folding shelter with a floor and frame made out of OSB chip board.
There is just enough room inside the shelter to sleep, and even a little bit of space which would be available for a stove if required. Here is what it would be like looking out from inside.
Is it a “house” the way that we think of one? No—but when you are just desperate for a place to sleep where you can enjoy some privacy and a sense of dignity, this more than fits the bill.
Homeless Emergency Shelter
This is a similar shelter with the same basic shape and layout made out of bright yellow coroplast.
The material was selected because it is sturdy, but also lightweight. It keeps out water and it can help to keep the occupant warm.
A large window is situated in the door. It can be opened or closed as desired. Once again, there is room to sleep, but also some space for storing a few personal items.
It looks quite cozy, actually.
Recycled Campaign Sign Shelter
Paul loves to experiment with unusual materials for his shelters—especially those which might otherwise go to waste.
This shelter is made almost entirely out of old campaign signs.
Lumber and screws went into the design as well as windows and cable ties. Almost all the materials were recycled.
Wondering what that thing is that looks like an IV? No, the shelter doesn’t need emergency medical attention. It’s a bag for a solar shower. A curtain can be pulled across for privacy when the shower is being used.
There’s room inside for a desk and some shelves.
Pretty awesome, right?
Burning Man Foam Board Pyramid Shelter
One last project I’ll share with you from Paul Elkins is this 12’ by 12’ pyramid shelter designed to serve as a lodging for the Burning Man festival.
Foil-backed foam board construction was used specifically to try and keep the temperature inside the pyramid as cool as possible.
It only cost $300 to construct the entire pyramid. The structure is not waterproof. Being as it was designed for temporary use in the desert, so this is not a big detractor.
It’s hard to see in this photo, but those bright spots on the walls are not lamps. They are windows.
Here is a photo which provides a better look at the windows:
You can see that they are a bubble shape, so it is possible to look out and see 180 degrees. For Burning Man, this makes a lot of sense. You would want to be able to check out everything going on outside.
There’s a fully functional sink in here with 8 feet of counter space.
Originally, some thought was put toward a flat roof, but Paul opted for a pyramid cap.
Here is the pyramid shelter set up at last at Burning Man. That little glass ball at the top has solar lights inside it. Paul also ended up installing air conditioning. It wasn’t easy to complete the setup after transporting the shelter to the site, but once he did, it made for a comfy accommodation.
I hope you were as impressed as I am by these amazing creations from Paul Elkins. I am really excited to see a savvy builder taking the principles of tiny design and experimenting with them in service of those who are most in need. Visit Elkins DIY to see more photos of these shelters as well as Paul’s other inspiring projects.