Good headline, right? You’re painting a mental picture of a Las Vegas showstopper zombie with a pronounced swivel to his hips, picking up a hammer and building tiny homes for homeless, aren’t you? While it would be cool for fans of the Walking Dead to see the rock and roll legend come back to from the dead to do good work, the reality is way cooler. It might not be THE ELVIS, but what Elvis Summers is doing to help Los Angles’ homeless makes him The King in my book.
Did you know 50% of homeless people in Los Angeles are women?
About 25,000 homeless people are living on the streets of L.A., 10,000 whom live exclusively in the Downtown area. According to City Watch LA, almost a quarter of the homeless are veterans, one-third are children and get this, 50% of them are women. That surprised me. I’m not entirely ignorant to the plight of the homeless in the USA, but I guess, like most people, I thought a majority of individuals living on the streets were men.
Shelters don’t allow shopping carts full of prized possessions
Living in New York (and now Los Angeles) I’m no stranger to seeing some homeless people on the streets, believe me, I’ve seen some pretty sad cases. I think when most people’s impression of a homeless person is someone who is begging for money. But the majority I’ve come across, walking the city streets, are disheveled, frustrated wanderers shuffling shopping carts stuffed with the bits and pieces of what used to be a static life. It’s just one of the many reasons homeless people avoid shelters. However unimportant or trivial we think these possessions may be when it’s all you got, you do what you have to do to maintain it. And that means sleeping rough so you can be near your things–to guard it or defend it.
L.A. musician builds tiny homes for homeless
With almost nothing himself, one man decides to make a difference
So here comes Elvis, a “woke” individual, empathetic and conscious, who wants to make one woman’s life better. Meet Smokey, a 60-year-old homeless widow sleeping on the streets of L.A. for over a decade. They became friends after she had asked him if he had any recycling; bottles or cans that she could exchange for small change. Elvis, a struggling musician, didn’t have much himself, living paycheck to paycheck, but when he learned that Smokey didn’t even have a cardboard box to lay on, he knew he had to do something. He comes up with what seems like a simple solution using low cost, recycled building materials to build a tiny mobile home on wheels for Smokey.
Two years ago, Elvis raised over $100,000 on Kickstarter to build even more tiny homes. That’s how I heard about what he was doing on social media. I dug the idea from the word go and sponsored Elvis’ efforts with a donation. Since then he has started a non-profit geared towards continuing his mission called My Tiny House Project L.A., so he continues to build homes for other homeless folks.
Happy ending, right? WRONG! After building nearly 37 tiny homes for the homeless, the City of Los Angeles wasn’t cool with one guy’s DIY solution and confiscated them. They eventually gave them back, after some bad press, and now Elvis and his small team of volunteers are trying to find private land to put the shelters on so they don’t run into the same situation.
My Tiny House Project goes from Kickstarter campaign to non-profit organization
Elvis, with the help of volunteers, continues to build tiny homes, but he hasn’t stopped there. Through his non-profit, MTHPLA, he’s expanded his mission to include additional support services including a mobile shower, community gardens, and an Inn Keeper Program. They are desperately seeking land to put the tiny homes, no small feat when it comes to setting up a temporary homeless camp. After so many setbacks, Elvis could have just given up, but what started him on this journey is what continues to drive him. I salute you, Elvis!
Volunteer, donate, get involved!
If you’d like to help out Elvis or feel inspired to help the homeless in your community, check out the MYTHPLA website. There you can find out more about the team’s mission what projects they’re currently working on and how to donate or volunteer. There are also resources available on the site if you’re interested in starting your own project.