Big Idea for a Small Space: Tiny Houses for the Homeless

Yuba County, Calif., is just the latest government to join the craze.
by | November 2016
(Eli Hiller/Sacramento Bee/Zuma Press)

Tiny houses are having a moment. On TV, there are at least six shows devoted to the topic. Off the air, the craze has spread from the environmentally and pocketbook-conscious house hunter to the government. This summer, Yuba County, Calif., opened 20 tiny houses for the homeless. Using $100,000 in taxpayer money and raising the rest from nonprofits, the county designed the shelters to be temporary: Participants are allowed to stay for 21 days, during which time they’re evaluated and offered a variety of services that include health care, meals, employment services, showers at a nearby facility, legal assistance, mental health services and more. The tiny houses are open to individuals currently living in encampments along rivers surrounding Yuba City and Marysville. The 8-by-14-foot modified Tuff Sheds have two single beds inside, but no running water or electricity. The shelters are part of an effort to eliminate homelessness in Yuba County, which is not the first place to undertake such a program. There are tiny house villages for the homeless in Austin; Detroit; Fresno, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle, among others.