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The Story Of a Man Whose Life Goal is to Build Houses for the Homeless. Truly Remarkable!

He builds miniature houses one after the other for the homeless in West Oakland.

Inah Garcia

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The home is where the heart is, and for some people, their hearts are lurking everywhere. This is because some families do not have a decent place to stay – one that is clean, dry, and comfortable. And for artist, plumber, and construction contractor Gregory Kloehn, it is a real letdown that the society accepts this as something normal and part of an ordinary daily picture.

“Homeless people,” said Kloehn. “They’re not really seen… I don’t want to say as human but almost. I mean, they’re definitely [viewed] lower than second class citizens.”

Kloehn first noticed the impact of the homeless in 2007 when he started to take pictures of dilapidated structures where the homeless in West Oakland settled. He then compiled them into a book called “Homeless Architecture,” and whilst in the process of creating his book, he got to know the people in the said neighborhood. He was amazed by the resourcefulness of the people that he decided to channel his own creative construction skills towards making decent homes for these families. He drove around town, looking for scrap materials in dumpsters so he could have something to build houses from. “I really just ripped a page out of the homeless peoples’ book, their own game plan,” says Kloehn.

The first home he built was made with wheels and a lock so the recipient could move it around as needed. He gave it to a couple who he had grown to know whilst working on his book. When he saw them transport it down the streets and actually live in it, that was when he was compelled to fathom the simple yet significant value of having a home.

Kloehn took his advocacy a notch higher by conducting workshops and classes for artists who would also want to know the basics of tiny/ mobile house making. With this, more people are following his footsteps as the builders have also made homes for their neighbors in Los Angeles, Arizona, and Tucson among many others. So far, Kloehn has built 35 miniature houses in Oakland and San Francisco.

“It’s really put me in tune with the homeless,” said Kloehn. Now, he said that he knows the people by name and is aware of their stories. He knows where these people came from and it has become comfortable for him to chat and hang out because he had come to recognize them as genuine people.

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Credits: NationSwell

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