Occupy Madison volunteers have been working to combat homelessness in Madison, Wisconsin. This year they launched an ambitious project to start building small, portable homes for Madison's homeless population. The first residents moved in on Christmas Eve.
The two finished homes are both approximately 98 square feet and have a bed, kitchen, bathroom and storage.
"Everybody did a part. It's been a community effort” says Betty Ybarra, who has moved into the first of many tiny homes being built by Occupy Madison.
"It's exciting. I've never owned my own house” says Ybarra.
The nonprofit Occupy Madison Inc. spearheaded the effort to build the homes, and more than 50 volunteers participated in the construction. Eventual residents were required to help build and decorate the units.
City ordinance allows the houses to be parked on the street as long as they're moved every 48 hours. Bruce Wallbaum, project organizer for Occupy Madison, and other organizers are working with area churches to park up to three homes in each lot. Eventually, they hope to get land to create a village of up to 30 small houses.
One of those innovations was a pole-mounted solar panel, with origins in rural Costa Rica, where villagers use solar-powered lights to guard against snake bites while heading to outdoor latrines. The panel can charge the battery that provides light to the house.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison donated the panel for one house. The idea came from Ken Walz, an instructor of chemistry, engineering and renewable energy at MATC and an adjunct professor at UW-Madison. For seven years, Walz has led students on study abroad trips to Costa Rica."
The first homes have a vented propane heater mounted on the wall. They also can use a space heater if parked near an electricity source.
If you'd either like to donate, or volunteer to assist in building homes for the homeless, you can contact Occupy Madison here.