Tiny houses a way off the streets for Wisconsin homeless

Sat May 10, 2014 1:24pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Brendan O'Brien

MADISON Wis. (Reuters) - After surviving two long, cold Wisconsin winters on the streets, Betty Ybarra traded freezing park benches and tents for a tiny house made of recycled wood she helped build herself.

Her 99-square-foot home, which boasts flower window boxes, was built by volunteers of the Occupy Madison group, as part of about a half dozen similar projects around the United States, including in New York and Texas, to shelter the homeless.

"We can check on our flowers and we can now try to live a normal life," said Ybarra, 49, who shares her new home with her friend Chris Derrick, 55, who had also been homeless.

Madison, Wisconsin's capital and a city of 250,000, regularly makes national lists of best places to live, but its homeless population increased by 7 percent over the last four years to about 3,370.

The Madison village plan was born two years ago in a "put up or shut up moment" when the Occupy Madison demonstrations against economic inequality ended, and as similar efforts started in other parts of the country.

In Newfield, New York, organizers plan 14 to 18 tiny houses on private land with private donations. In Austin, Texas, the plan is to build a village of tiny houses and small shelters for 200 people on 27 acres.

The Madison plan might be narrower in scope, with nine tiny homes planned so far, but organizers say a retail store and gardens on the site of a former auto repair shop will bring a sense of safety and community.

"The village will bring dignity. We will have a fence and we will have community," organizer Trina Clemente said.   Continued...