“The homeless need housing”. This is something that Bob Bell, innovator and President of Wike (Pi Manufacturing) and a City Councillor in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, has heard on a number of occasions. The homeless often move around the urban environment with a trailer containing all their belongings, towed behind a bicycle or by hand, and these individuals are left to sleep on the street or in tents. This way of life is precarious, especially in in the Canadian climate. The thought kept going through Bob’s mind that there must be a solution to this housing issue. Add in Bob’s values of sustainability and reuse, and an old shipping container on the Wike property with a stiff door that was no longer practical to use for storage, and an idea came to mind: what if this discarded container could be given another life and help the lives of some unfortunate people in our community. The idea grew and developed into a new product -“The Tiny Town”, a small collection of container homes for the homeless that have heating, a bathroom, bed, and kitchen, and can provide shelter, community, and security at a low cost.
We know that the quality of life of substance users and people who face other social barriers improves when they are housed. That said, the homeless are difficult to house: they require housing that offers shelter and security, while being sturdy and indestructible, and housing costs need to be low.
Steel containers can’t be broken, and they can be power washed and spray painted when someone moves out. Tiny Town container homes are functional, have low maintenance costs, and offer other efficiencies. Furthermore, containers can be moved when needed. A 10-unit Tiny Town can be built with services running underneath and down the middle. Furthermore, an 11th container can function as an office and kitchen for support workers, creating a simple and practical community support system.
Existing social supports are challenged by the rapidly increasing numbers of homeless individuals. Current housing proposals with capital costs of $200-$300,000 per unit are outside the financial capacity of government funding. What is required is a shelter unit that is designed to fulfill all the needs of the homeless while lowering the cost per unit. Pi Manufacturing’s prototype for a Tiny Town is made up of container homes which can be placed side by side on an angle so that each unit has a window, and can be built economically for about $50,000 CAD per unit (municipal servicing included). With this cost, income derived from social support programs (Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program) can carry the capital and operating costs of the housing solution. A government organization, charity, or not for profit can build a Tiny Town and service it within social support housing allowances.
A model of a Tiny Town unit has been developed at the Wike Factory. If you represent a municipality, charity, or social services organization and are interested in discovering how this model can be an ideal solution for your community, please contact Bob Bell at Bob@Wike.ca to schedule a tour. The drawings and plans are open source, available for any community that wants help to solve their homeless crisis.