As It Happens

Los Angeles cracks down on tiny houses for homeless project

Homeless people living in small houses built especially for them are being made homeless again, after the city of Los Angeles says the tiny buildings are a hazard and must be taken away.
Elvis Summers, right, with his tiny house on wheels he built for Irene "Smokie" McGhee, left, a woman who had been sleeping on the streets in his South Los Angeles neighbourhood. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)
City officials in Los Angeles are trying to seize and confiscate houses. But they're not just any houses. They are very small ones, built especially for homeless people. Most of these small houses are found around freeway overpasses around the city and officials say taking them down is simply part of a street clean-up initiative.

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"It's been very emotional," Elvis Summers tells As It Happens host Carol Off. "It's been horrible for me to have to take the houses away from people. They have nowhere to go and they were all doing well with the houses, sleeping much better, and they had a chance to continue on and come up and now they don't."

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Summers is the man behind the building of these small houses through the Tiny House, Huge Purpose charity. He says that he has managed to save eight of the houses by moving them to hidden locations or private property, but estimates that at least 11 people are now back on the streets as a result of the city's crack down.   

"They don't have any options," Summers explains. "I'm going to be heading right to buy them all tents because they don't have anything."

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The city insists that the structures do not meet safety standards and that they provide alternative housing options for the homeless. But Summers dismisses these claims, stressing the urgency of the situation.
"They just talk and talk and talk," Summer argues. "They say that they offer them shelter, but the shelters are all old and they're also pretty disgusting and dangerous. A lot of people turn it down because, strangely, it's safer on the streets than it is inside their shelters."

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