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City Agrees To Return Seized Tiny Homes Built For The Homeless

One of the tiny homes built by Elvis Summers for the homeless (via Facebook)
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Thirty-seven small houses built to temporarily house the homeless will be returned to their former occupants after being seized by the city earlier this year. Officials have agreed to return the tiny homes that were impounded by police and sanitation workers in February when the homeless people living in them were forced to return to sleeping in tents, according to the L.A. Times. Now, organizers are trying to work with the city and other institutions to locate land where the houses can be relocated to be used as shelters again. The sudden turnaround follows fast on the heels of a federal ruling that the city cannot simply seize and destroy a homeless person's property.

The 37 homes—which are about the size of a parking space—were built and distributed across L.A. by Elvis Summers with the help of volunteers and a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $100,000. But at the request of City Councilman Curren Price, who said the houses blocked sidewalks and put neighbors at risk—several of the small structures were taken away with the intention of destroying them. The homeless people who lost their tiny houses were reportedly given rent vouchers by the city, but they are now living in tents instead as they seem to be unable to use the vouchers. "No one is accepting them," Summers told the Times. "Everyone is still on the streets."

According to a video Summers posted to the project's Facebook page, he believed that Mayor Eric Garcetti might offer a surplus city lot to relocate the homes in one location. But Connie Llanos, the mayor's spokeswoman, says that while the mayor appreciates the creative approach to the challenge of homelessness, he does not support the "village concept." She tells the Times, "We're developing a process on how we could work with nonprofits and we'd share those with [Summers]."

Earlier this week the mayor proposed a "seven fold" increase in budgetary spending to help fight homelessness, which follows a federal grant for $84.2 million dollars for the effort. Even medical marijuana might help to raise the funds, too.

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Summers says he expects to get the homes back within the next two weeks and they will be stored on a church lot in Compton. In the meantime, he will continue to look for land to place the homes, ideally with access to a shower and bathrooms, electricity and other necessities.

He explains that the tiny house village is not intended to be a complete solution to homelessness, but rather a safe shelter while occupants get mental health care, substance abuse treatment, medical care or counseling before ultimately moving into permanent housing.

"I'm absolutely not trying to enable people," he told the Times. "It's just a bridge between the gutter and permanent housing, and it all starts with a good night's rest."