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How One Los Angeles Man is Combating His City’s Homelessness Problem

In recent years, Los Angeles County’s homeless problem has only grown worse — since 2013, the number of people who don’t have a place to live has risen 12%. Nearly 45,000 people across the county are now without a permanent residence.

More than 50% of home buyers say they desire a brand-new home over an existing dwelling. But for the homeless, whose “homes” are sidewalks, alleyways, tattered tents and the shelter of highway overpasses — and who are ignored by passerby as if they don’t exist — any home would be an improvement over their current situation.

And while County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has called for more affordable and supportive housing, and Mayor Eric Garcetti supports action against homelessness on a number of fronts, one man is actually doing something about the problem.

According to a May 5 LA Times article, Elvis Summers, hoping to provide a shelter for one homeless 60-year-old woman, gathered wood, shingles, one window and one door to construct a tiny home. He built the eight-foot-long home for Irene “Smokie” McGhee, a grandmother who had previously been sleeping in the dirt, at no charge to her.

“Money cannot buy the purpose of this house because it can only be paid for by love,” Summers said of his project.

Summers, 38, filmed the construction process of this tiny home and posted the timelapse video to YouTube on April 23. Since then, his small project has gotten big attention, with more than 5.3 million views.

He is now looking to build more tiny homes for Los Angeles’s homeless; so far, his Tiny House, Huge Purpose project has received $53,217 in donations via GoFundMe, along with volunteers and donated building materials.

“Being homeless is not a crime. The true crime is how we as human beings look at and treat people that are homeless,” Summers said.

Because these tiny homes are built on wheels, they are legal shelters that can be located on any street. If the homes weren’t mobile and were larger, the L.A. Building and Safety Department would require a permit.

As more of Los Angeles County’s homeless find their home sweet home in a tiny, wheeled shelter, hopefully county executives will take renewed action to help the homeless as well.