March 26, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 13

Rev. Rich Lang

To solve a big problem like homelessness, we might look for answers in tiny homes

By Rev. Rich Lang

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The deep tragedy of homelessness is that there are solutions. But the solutions require a moral willfulness. For example, everyone deserves a roof over her head, food in her belly, opportunity for education, health care, and a possibility to live within community. These are moral basics. These are the bedrock, no-compromise, backbone policies of any political or spiritual movement worthy of our time, talent and treasure. It is the lack of these moral basics that reveal how seriously perverted the free market economy has become. In other words, as a nation we can conjure up billions of dollars in aid for banks that are too big to fail and billions more for military imperialism, but when it comes to our own people, our own national security, both political parties reveal backbones that are seriously mollusk-like: nonexistent. 

The good news is that every now and then, real live people come to their moral senses. Every now and then politicians, businesses folk and even ideologues aim toward higher ground and greater good. Every now and then, the various economic layers of our country come together with creativity and beauty to reveal a glimpse of our possibilities.

An example is the growing “tiny homes” movement throughout America. From Quixote Village in Olympia, to Second Wind Cottages in New York, to Occupy Madison in Wisconsin, to Community First in Austin, tiny villages are starting to sprout up. Tiny villages are an idea whose time has come, particularly for us here in Seattle. A tiny village is a new approach to helping some people escape the horror of homelessness. A tiny village is a collection of very small, economically cheap houses that can become a home for one or two people. They can cost as little as $5,000 to build, and they’re a humane response to the moral depravity evidenced by the lack of affordable housing.

We could create a few such communities here in Seattle. It would require coordination among government, business and civic groups. It would be an incredible opportunity for churches and faith communities to practice compassion and to act, rather than talk or aimlessly march, against injustice. One would think with all of the churches and faith communities in Seattle we would be able to fund hundreds of these homes, if business and government would supply the heavy costs of land and infrastructure.

And further, if a church or a civic group funded a home, then just like with Habitat for Humanity, it could also provide community and ongoing social aid. This is particularly important as a formerly homeless person moves from the chaotic violence of survival skills into skills of thriving and interpersonal cooperation that are necessary for homeowners. Such a project would be a good use of the enormous wealth of this city.

To paraphrase Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson: “Why not us?” Why not now?



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