A collaboration between homeless residents of Burlington, Vermont and local architects yielded seven new home designs. The resulting exhibit, called “Imagining Home” by creator Alison Cannon, raises discussion and shatters stereotypes about the homeless.
As this Seven Days article explains, designs vary from houses on wheels to underground living quarters. All are small by American standards, reflecting the designers’ basic need for shelter, but the similarities end there. The exhibit shows there is no one-size-fits-all approach to reducing homelessness, not even within the Housing First strategy Ms. Cannon supports. Every individual has his/her own conception of home, and so a variety of housing options are required to meet that need. As the Housing First mentality goes, if you like your house, you’ll find it much easier to address issues like addiction that led to your becoming homeless in the first place.
It’s not too surprising that a resourceful population builds a lot of innovation into their dream homes. Rainwater catchment systems and windows oriented for passive solar energy reduce the houses’ need for water and fuel. The design pictured here, dubbed the Gopher Berm House by designer Mitchell White, uses the high heat capacity of earth to maintain a constant year-round temperature indoors with little demand for HVAC. These designs may never get built, but they showcase the skill set and dreams of a too-often-neglected slice of society. (If any architects are hiring right now… Mitchell White is a darn good drafter.)
The exhibit will be on display at the Tiny House Fest Vermont in Brattleboro this weekend, September 1-4.