July 18th, 2003 - Open Knowledge
Jul. 18th, 2003
As the Bay Area housing crisis persists, it grows larger than life, spawning archetypal characters and urban legends. Everyone knows at least one tale of an evil eviction-breathing dragon or a heartbroken heroine exiled from home. And, as we exchange stories at the extremes of this crisis, we create a sort of grim urban fairy tale.
Over the years, I've thought a lot about why we are so attached to seeing the crisis in these simple terms. Of course, good stories nourish us, especially when they seem to transform other people's hardship and struggle into cautionary tales, but I think it's more than that. At the heart of this story lies the yearning for a fairy-tale ending: a house that can shelter an entire city, a mayor who spins gold out of straw bales, a fairy godmother for the homeless.
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05:39 am - The Mad Housers
The Mad Housers provide shelter to the homeless by building huts.
The huts are sturdy wood framed structures, 6' x 8' x 10'. Each hut has a gabled roof, a sleeping loft, a locking door, and a wood burning stove for both heat and cooking. The huts are not proposed to be permanent housing; instead, they are shelters which offer privacy, security, protection from the elements, and stability.
Huts are designed along the classic KISS principle, and can be assembled with an inexperienced crew in about 50 total man-hours. Once assembled on site, the huts become the property of the clients. Usually, the client will then make additions and improvements according to their own ideas; in fact, many of the best design improvements have come from the clients themselves, who have the most practical experience with the huts.
The huts were originally expected to last only a couple of years. However, some huts have lasted over six years and are still going; pieces which have rotted are simply reframed and replaced with a minimum amount of fuss, and huts themselves are recycled to new clients as old ones move on and out of the huts. Of course, the huts weren't expected to be needed beyond a couple of years, but the scope of that problem is beyond our domain.
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