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Kathleen Sanderson
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Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vs7vyhpygQU&feature=player_embedded

A video which shows a tent city where the residents have been building plastic-covered structures to live in -- in a climate with real winters.  There must be a better solution.

Kathleen
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 995
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Yes, I know.  Too bad some of those trillions that are being splashed around for the benefit of those who are already rich can't be used more wisely.

The monolithics are certainly interesting -- I've looked at that website before, but I don't think they had those cabins at the time.  Seems like, for local construction, frame or one of the other alternative materials would be better, though.  Given access to a large parcel with some trees on it, I could see a community of small cob cottages going up with the labor of the people who would be living in them, for example.  (Need trees for roof framing and for firewood eventually.)

Kathleen
 
                                                
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the government doesn't permit better solutions, because they don't want people to stay
 
Erica Wisner
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Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:
Yes, I know.  Too bad some of those trillions that are being splashed around for the benefit of those who are already rich can't be used more wisely.

The monolithics are certainly interesting -- I've looked at that website before, but I don't think they had those cabins at the time.  Seems like, for local construction, frame or one of the other alternative materials would be better, though.  Given access to a large parcel with some trees on it, I could see a community of small cob cottages going up with the labor of the people who would be living in them, for example.  (Need trees for roof framing and for firewood eventually.)

Kathleen


If your only exposure to the kind of circumstances that might leave a person in a tarp tent is online video, may I recommend the periodical Street Roots http://www.streetroots.org ?  I bet you can also find some people within your community with more direct experience of the issues involved.

It is difficult to imagine a person without family connections or significant income, gaining (legitimate) access to a 'large parcel with some trees on it,' while rebuilding a life shattered by medical emergencies, drug addiction, mental illness, or extreme poverty.

It is also difficult (though not impossible) to imagine a group of people whose only common experience is such afflictions, building a healthy community in the current vacuum of social support.

Dignity Village is our local example of such an attempt.
http://www.tinyhousedesign.com/2009/10/10/dignity-village-a-success-story/
It was considered successful, not only because the houses are cute, but because residents and local (non-homeless) advocates were able to reach a compromise with the city that allowed a semi-permanent location.  There are no trees, and it's not that conveniently located to the health and human services resources that the residents need, but it's a start. 

Most of the people I see speculating about designs and materials for small, permanent homes are not homeless.  They are small property owners, or folks who once hoped to be property owners but are now trying to be realistic about settling for less.They are people with the means to negotiate a secure tenancy.  They are people with the means and interest to choose what climate they live in, and to plan ahead for retirement.

In the absence of property rights, or in a nomadic culture, you tend to see more portable dwellings such as plank houses, tipis, yurts, gypsy wagons, boat cities - tents or boxes of various kinds.  Tents are not necessarily a bad answer to a 'real winter' - Mongolia and Everest are harsh climates.  Most modern housing is built on the same lines as a good tent: structure, skin, and room to remodel.  We move every 5 years on average, in the USA, and our houses reflect this impermanence: we don't tend to invest in any improvements that will take more than a few years to repay our investment.

Cob houses, and masonry dwellings in general (adobe, stone, brick), take more labor to build, and that labor cannot be recaptured if the builder is forced to move or remodel.  So permanent masonry dwellings tend to belong to more settled folk, who can rely on enjoying the fruits of their labors in one place for a number of years.  

Once you have a parcel of land, with secure tenancy, you need a stable community structure to support your return to health.  Homeless people often sleep outside not because the shelters are full, but because they feel the people in the shelters are more dangerous than the elements.

If you are in charge of the parcel you have in mind, I strongly recommend researching social dynamics of intentional communities, and the homeless population, before offering squatters' rights.  When the afflicted outnumber the healthy, chances favor a downward spiral. 

I have a friend who likes to get up early some days, and deliver hot coffee (or iced water bottles in summer), and sack lunches to anyone she finds sleeping on the sidewalk, before the police get there to roust them out.

I have another friend who is frustrated with a cooperative village-building effort on some local land, because the owner keeps adopting hard-luck cases who tell him sob stories, then are hostile or steal things from the paying clients when he's not watching.

I don't have a 'solution.'  Managing my own affairs is complex enough.
I do have a healthy distrust for simple solutions to complex problems. 

I hope you'll try something, anything small gesture of solidarity, and see how it turns out.
Blanket.  Cold water bottle.  Bike lock.  Bus tickets.  Hot coffee.
Things you wouldn't be offended if someone offered to you, that empower a person to get well and make good choices of their own.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 995
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Erica, you make many very good points.  I was thinking from my own experience of being homeless for over a year after my marriage broke up -- no mental health issues (not mine, anyway), but I have an adult severely mentally handicapped daughter and wasn't able to find reliable care for her so I could work.  Technically, we are still homeless, as we are living with my grandmother in her house.  Grandma is 97, so I don't know how much longer we'll be here, although she's doing extremely well for her age.  When she's gone, my plan is to purchase a small piece of land somewhere and build a tiny house for us to live in. 

While we were homeless, we first lived out of a small pickup with a plywood box on the back of it (six feet square) for about four or five months, visiting family and traveling from New Hampshire to Oregon and back, and then camped for several months more in a friend's basement family room.  (Her house was already sort of a boarding house for single women from our church, but we were still in the way.)  I am determined that we will not ever again live in someone else's house, even if we have to live in a tent.  It will be our own tent! 

You are quite correct that when you know you are only in a place temporarily, you don't want to build permanent structures.  I have that problem here, although we've been here for seven years and it could easily be another seven years (like I said, Grandma is doing well -- and I'm thankful for that).  I've thought about getting a travel trailer, an old one, and fixing it up for us to live in someday.  Don't know if gas for towing will still be available by then, though, at the rate things are going.  Uncertainty about the future is a good motivation killer.

Kathleen
 
      
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Better than a tent:

http://hexayurt.com/


Now, this concept needs some real updating. It's cool if you just want foam board huts for Burning Man or something.

But...can be way better. I came up with a simple wood frame system for the Hexayurt concept.
The people running the Hexayurt project have other things in mind so they really didn't care about it.
A real frame will make the concept into a "real structure". Total cost is roughly $1000-2000. More if you want a fancy off the ground deck to build it on and some other slick features.

My initial info page was:

http://exploratorylaboratory.blogspot.com/

As you can see, those guys only wanted to chip in $10.
I was not really into doing all the work for free for them.

If somebody has a space to build and a need for a structure I'd be willing to offer services.
The entire thing would need to be documented on video step by step.
You pay materials and my lodging/travel costs.
I would keep rights to the video. Will probably sell a step by step build manual sometime in the future.
Maybe even do build workshops.


Anyway, this structure can be built completely with hand tools if necessary. Every part is lightweight and can be erected from ground. A 6 foot stepladder is used to put up the rafters. A single person can do it by themselves.
I spent about a week thinking out this process.
The frame is really tough and stable. It was setup in "greenhouse" form and left up all winter. It was hit with 50mph gusts on a few occasions. I moved it to a different spot once and forgot to attach it to the ground. That night huge wind gusts came up. I ran out to attach it down and found it moved maybe 3 inches total.

So, if there are any takers, it would be game on. If not I'll be building the first complete model around Feb. 2011
A Youtube video will be done to show a little of it and promote the book/manual.

Get in touch. koffee kommando gmail . c0m

A freebie...

My simple gasifier stove plans:

http://bit.ly/bjPQEB



 
Ernie Wisner
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Location: Tonasket washington
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:
Erica, you make many very good points.  I was thinking from my own experience of being homeless for over a year after my marriage broke up -- no mental health issues (not mine, anyway), but I have an adult severely mentally handicapped daughter and wasn't able to find reliable care for her so I could work.  Technically, we are still homeless, as we are living with my grandmother in her house.  Grandma is 97, so I don't know how much longer we'll be here, although she's doing extremely well for her age.  When she's gone, my plan is to purchase a small piece of land somewhere and build a tiny house for us to live in. 

...  I've thought about getting a travel trailer, an old one, and fixing it up for us to live in someday.  Don't know if gas for towing will still be available by then, though, at the rate things are going.  Uncertainty about the future is a good motivation killer.

Kathleen


Well, out of the armchair and into the fire!
My apologies if any of my presumptions bothered you.

To reciprocate the reality-check:
I've never considered myself homeless, but I've been a seasonal migrant worker while abroad, and also have fallen back on living with family a few times.  I've never owned a home of my own, though I've rented in my own name.  Having some money in the bank, and 'social capital' for when the money runs out, and no dependents, makes my footloose times an adventure rather than a misfortune.
I lived with my grandmother for a year while caring for her and my now-husband, and we considered building a small building on her property. 
I've since helped move an even smaller shed for my mother-in-law, and got some definite ideas about how not to build a re-movable structure!

My daydream when I was younger was to convert an old flatbed pickup into a gypsy wagon / work-cart. 

Nowadays, for a semi-permanent semi-portable room, I'd probably go with something like paja-reque (straw-based wattle-and-daub: clay-dipped straw 'ropes' or clumps, woven around flexible wood or bamboo uprights).  It's insulative, mostly fireproof, and both lighter and more portable than cob.  You can build it within a relatively light lumber frame, or weave it together like a basket.  Then finish it nicely with earth or lime plasters, inside and out.  You could build it on a trailer, or on skids so that it could be winched onto a flatbed if needed.  If the shell cracks when you move it, wet the broken area and repair using the same techniques.  Here's a kiddie playground version of the wattle-and-daub technique: http://chelseagreen.com/blogs/kikodenzer/2009/06/23/stixnmud/
 
To go from art project to livable space, you would need a roof and to make sure water drains away from it, but that's true of most structures.  You can frame in windows and doors and weave around them, leave some nails or branches sticking out of the 'studs' on the sides to tie in with the rest of the wattle.

We've also been playing with skin-on-frame boats, and speculating about how much fun it would be to build other structures this way, like roofs or airplanes.  Thaddeus takes better pictures than we do:
http://thaddeusss.blogspot.com/2008/05/new-umiak.html
http://thaddeusss.blogspot.com/2007/06/tension.html
http://thaddeusss.blogspot.com/2007/06/twenty-pirates.html
http://thaddeusss.blogspot.com/2007/05/moonlighting.html
but here's a few from our own website: http://www.ErnieAndErica.info/boats

I don't know where you are located, climate and preferences make a big difference to pared-down housing design.  But you can probably look at local vernacular architecture for some ideas for features that could be useful, even scaled-down.

Last thoughts: Sounds like you could maybe use some caregiver resources.
  I got a lot out of attending a caregivers' support group that was hosted through our local Providence medical system. It was called Powerful Tools for Caregivers, and they used the Caregiver's Helpbook by Schmall and Cleland as a study guide. 
  It was really the group of 20 other people that made the difference, even though most of us were in different situations.  We all got to hear about things we were glad we didn't have to deal with, and likewise got some sympathy and peer mentoring, as well as the useful tools and practice exercises from the actual curriculum.  Helped keep me sane while people kept asking why I was putting 'my life' aside for my loved one(s).

  One of our friends has a mentally disabled adult son, and he recently gave us a flyer about his project to start up the Gail Watson Clubhouse in East Portland.  He really likes the Clubhouse model for community-based support.  info@tgwclubhousepdxEAST.com , or you could use the keyword "clubhouse" to search for similar resources near where you want to live.  I think each one is different, but our friend is passionate about the basic concept.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 995
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Thank you for the ideas!  I've started looking at your links, and will slowly add to this reply as I go through them....

I've never actually had anyone ask why I was putting 'my life' aside for my daughter (when it's your own child, I suppose that's pretty obvious), but I have had people tell me how wonderful I am for doing so, which seems kind of odd to me!  What else was I supposed to do?  When Juniper was around eight or nine, a nurse we knew urged me to put her in a home for handicapped children, but even if we'd been inclined to do that, the home was six hours drive away from where we lived, so we wouldn't have been able to see her more than a few times a year.  She's autistic, but even at her worst (and that can be pretty bad!) she's always been a blessing, both to me and to nearly everyone who knows her. 

We live near Klamath Falls, right at the base of the Cascades.  Our soil is heavy clay and I've considered cob, but it's not too portable.  The tribes in this area built structures somewhat like your hug playground shelter, only without the clay covering.  I like your light-clay woven from 'ropes' of straw idea -- I'd have to buy most of the straw, but could get some from the property with my scythe.  I've built a small structure on skids before -- a 12' X 16' shed that I used for a barn.  It was stud construction, nothing fancy.  It had been moved twice last I knew (it's in Alaska). 

I love the boat pages!  I've always wanted to build a boat!  We lived on a lake in Alaska when I was small, and my brothers and I played in our family's two small boats.  One was a very heavy thirteen-foot rowboat that my grandfather had built for Mom when she was in her teens; the other was a plywood flat-bottom boat, jon boat style.  (It leaked badly!)  We had a lot of fun with those.  Then my Dad, Grandpa, and a friend of theirs had a fishing boat at Homer for one season -- they just managed to break even, so they decided to get out while they were ahead and sold the Helen B.  When I went to college I went to Sheldon Jackson in Sitka (it recently had to shut down due to lack of funds) and we were often out in boats, or on the docks, or the beach.  I've thought about finding a boat I could afford to live on and going back to Southeast Alaska, but it would be difficult to keep goats and chickens on a boat, and maintenance is a major consideration....

What did they cover that umiak with?  It looks transparent?

I mentioned in my earlier post the little pickup we lived out of for a few months.  The plywood box on the back of the pickup (on a flatbed) had a canvas roof.  I stretched the canvas over some bent aluminum electrical conduit, and fastened the edges by rolling them around pieces of lathe and screwing the lathe to the outside of the box.  Then I painted the whole thing with white paint.  I was hoping that the paint would make the canvas waterproof, but it still leaked if you touched the underside during a rain.  However, I drove about nine thousand miles that year with that box with the canvas roof, and at the end of it, the thing looked just as good as when we started.  I read somewhere that if kept painted, a canvas roof like that can last for a hundred years.  It would have to be insulated somehow, but I can see an entire structure being built like that.  More to think about, anyhow.

In your previous post, you suggested doing what I could right now to help the homeless -- I forgot to answer that in my reply, but we do what we can.  I'm a little cautious about it as we've been ripped off a few times doing it, but try to learn from each experience.  Some of them I feel sorry for as it's obvious that they have mental health issues.  Some make me angry as it's equally obvious that they've chosen to make a lifestyle of begging, often to support a drug or alcohol habit. 

The ones I'm most concerned for aren't usually 'on the streets,' they are the people like me who are dependent on friends and family to offer them and their child (ren) a place to live.  Most of them will eventually get back on their feet and in a place of their own, as we will, but it's nice to be able to offer a hand towards that whenever possible.  I like the idea behind Habitat for Humanity, but it would be good to see something like that on a smaller scale for those who can't afford even the modest homes that Habitat builds but still would like to be independent (or maybe could afford a Habitat home but don't want to be in debt even for -- or especially for -- a mortgage).  I guess that's kind of what I had in mind when I started this thread, just hadn't quite thought it through yet.

Kathleen
 
                                          
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Ernie Wisner wrote:One of our friends has a mentally disabled adult son, and he recently gave us a flyer about his project to start up the Gail Watson Clubhouse in East Portland.  He really likes the Clubhouse model for community-based support.  info@tgwclubhousepdxEAST.com , or you could use the keyword "clubhouse" to search for similar resources near where you want to live.  I think each one is different, but our friend is passionate about the basic concept.


i have nothing to add on the thread subject, but as a social worker, i can't recommend clubhouse programming enough!!!  if your loved one is in need of activity, socialization, and a sense of purpose, clubhouse programs are amazing.

people with diagnoses of serious mental health issues, and varying degrees of developmental disability do very well when they are able to discover their own role in a clubhouse program and develop improved skills that may parlay into paid employment.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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I don't think we have any such program here -- at least I've never heard of it, and I have been in contact with our local disabled services people.  It sounds good, though, for those who can access it.

I don't think that my daughter will ever be employable or able to live independently.  She functions on the level of a three-year-old, and is autistic.  On medication she's doing well, but even so doesn't handle stress well at all, and dislikes being separated from me for very long (I do work part-time).  Grandma babysits while I'm at work, and my mother lives close enough to help out once in a while, too -- she stayed here a couple of weeks ago while I went on a three-day retreat over at the coast (someone had to milk the goats!).

Kathleen
 
                        
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Kathleen, for some reason what you wrote about two messages back reminded me of my Mom, and about how things like culture and societal expectations change with the years.  My mom was diagnosed with MS back in the early 50's, which got my Dad a hardship discharge out of the Korean War.  After he came back her symptoms abated, and they started having kids -- my designation is 7 of 8 ( ).  She remained symptom free until I was about 12 years old, and up until the day she had her stroke (she died a few days later) she would do the daily crossword puzzle in pen.

I'm mentioning this because I later learned that at the time that she was diagnosed with MS, about 9 out of every 10 couples where on partner got MS would get divorced soon after the diagnosis.  It was also the standard medical line that since pregnancy was stressful, women with MS shouldn't get pregnant and should abort any babies if the did get pregnant.  Well, we're Catholic so both divorce and abortion were out of the question.  We also now know that pregnancy reduces symptoms and can even cause the MS to go into remission, so all those babies helped my Mom remain symptom-free all those years.

I'm also mentioning this because of your comments regarding "putting aside your life" and "being wonderful for taking care of your child" are exactly the same things that both my Mom and Dad did in terms of taking care of each other and the kids, and it was doing these things that saved their lives.

You may enjoy reading "House Rules" by Jodi Picoult.  She's usually a very "down" author but this one is very upbeat.
 
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