Christopher Merklinger built his 100 square foot home as part of his own healing journey.
Now he’s selling tiny homes in Yellowknife, and says they’re something that could help others who are homeless, or just need a place to recover.
“It's a healing place for me,” he says. “It's a sanctuary. It's a place that I know, from a safety standpoint, there's a couple of windows. I don't have to worry about some big vacant place that's empty and void. And also a place that I can live mortgage-free.”
At 56, Merklinger is in the process of rebuilding his life, one that he says was coloured by trauma from an early age, and a lengthy descent into addictions.
Merklinger says he grew up in on a farm in southern Ontario, essentially taken hostage by an aggressive father who was ex-military. Around age 14, he was sexually abused by some neighbours.
He says he turned to drugs and alcohol when he was just eight years old.
The pain and addiction followed Merklinger into adulthood, until it became unbearable.
“I was planning my suicide, and that was of course after I'd destroyed everything: my wife, my daughter, my business. I put the gun to my mouth, and I could smell the cordite and the gluing, and I didn't pull the trigger.”
That's when Merklinger began his recovery.
He went to rehab in Barrie, Ontario and afterwards, spent nine-and-a-half years working as a counsellor with other addicts, including at the Tree of Peace in Yellowknife where he’s under contract.
Merklinger built his first tiny house with the help of an Amish community near Owen Sound.
The houses are still built there, and shipped up north for sale.
“My sense of healing came from wanting to build these tiny houses, because for a lot of folks with post-traumatic stress disorder, we need a safe place to be. And by having a safe place to be, meant something like this room, but affordable,” he says.
“The stress of a big mortgage after losing everything that I had, I don’t think I could’ve handled the stress.”
Merklinger says their low cost and small size can give people struggling with addictions, homelessness and trauma a safe place to call their own.