A non-profit organization in Madison, Wisconsin has created a small world for the area’s homeless. Right now, there is an estimated 3,370 homeless people (and rising) in the area, but thanks to the efforts of Occupy Madison, those numbers will be dropping. The village contains nine tiny homes, day resource center, and access to restrooms, showers, laundry (with future plans for a community garden, tree orchard, and chickens in the spring), and gives the area’s homeless a safe and warm place to sleep, reports Revolution News. The tiny homes — all made from reclaimed or recycled material — are 98 square feet and feature a bed, kitchen, bathroom, storage, and propane heat. The homes cost an estimated $3,000 to build, all of which came from donations. The homes were built by a “revolving” crew of volunteers, including some formerly homeless residents, reports Daily Kos.
One of those volunteers, Barbara Ybarra, was homeless at the time she was volunteering, and she currently lives in the home she helped build. Of the experience, Ybarra told WMTV that “it’s exciting. I’ve never even owned my own house.” Occupy Madison member Luca Clemente stated that “rather than taking people from the streets and putting them in a building, we thought we could work together to create our own structures. We don’t give houses to homeless people, we enable people to build their own houses to create their own futures.”
Members of Occupy Madison state that the city and the county did nothing to cooperate with the project.
Our approach to working within the system came only after we realized that without dotting every ‘i,’ and crossing every ‘t,’ the city and the county would never let us operate — they used every opportunity to enforce ordinances, regulations, and seemingly arbitrary whims against us. This paralleled precisely the persecution of everyday, unaffiliated, homeless individuals. When you are homeless, ‘the system’ is rife with obstacles designed to prevent creative innovation or adaptation– we at Occupy Madison experienced the same headaches. In many ways, we have had much more success since we changed our approach. This was due not only to how we communicated with city and county offices (we never shirked from being open or transparent), but how we are perceived by Madison’s genteel liberal population. It’s stunning how a flowerbed on a windowsill can be so much better for PR than the window itself, or the house it’s attached to.