Artist Gregory Kloehn is giving new meaning to the tired adage, "One man's trash is another man's treasure." Except in the case of his ongoing project, Homeless Homes, the word "treasure" should be replaced with the phrase "eclectic building materials for small but efficient mobile homes."
It takes longer to say, but it does a better job of capturing the ingenuity of the initiative, a housing endeavor that hopes to spread goodwill through the construction of viable living spaces.
For the past several years, Kloehn -- a California-based artist specializing in "social irony" -- has been transforming gently used garbage and salvage into the building blocks of portable homes. Chalk it up to the rise of the Tiny House Movement, the project aims not to put a bandage over the epidemic of homelessness, but to provide an essential tool that can help individuals in the long uphill battle against poverty -- a safe place to reside.
The shelters are no larger than a sofa, crafted from reclaimed wood and plastic found on the street by Kloehn and his volunteers in Oakland, usually over the course of two or three days. Equipped with wheels and a roof, and built on a foundation of discarded wood pallets, the mobile houses differ in size and shape but all supply the same overall benefit of creative shelter.
"Our goal is to bring together imaginative people and discarded materials to make sturdy, innovative, mobile shelters for the homeless people," Kloehn writes on the Homeless Homes Project website. "By sourcing our materials from illegal street dumping, commercial waste and excess household items, we strive to diminish money's influence over the building process."
While Kloehn's houses do not hit at the origins of homelessness -- addiction, mental illness, lack of education -- his ongoing efforts to raise awareness of impoverished populations and provide security for those otherwise disenfranchised have kept his project in the headlines.
“Stuff people just throw away on the street can give someone a viable home,” Kloehn explained in an interview with NBC News. “Does it have merit as a solution to homelessness? As far as giving people a shelter, yeah, definitely. Is it a solution to homelessness? It’s an answer. An attempt.”
Kloehn has a history of creating nontraditional structures, such as the homes, bars and restaurants he makes from shipping containers, many of which can be found in Red Hook, Brooklyn. You can learn more about his style of design over on his personal website. Of course, the artist is always looking for more volunteers, willing to help with scour the streets for unwanted material for Homeless Homes. Check out this page for more information.
All photos courtesy Brian Renyolds.