It's a model that offers stability and an initiative to help the homeless. And this success story stems from a nonprofit organization, Occupy Madison—an offshoot of the national Occupy Wall Street movement—whose focus and mission is to combat homelessness in the capital of Wisconsin "one tiny house at a time.”
Madison, Wisconsin has seen it's homeless population grow by 7 percent in the last four years and with a lack of movement by city council members to address the problem, Occupy Madison, Inc. developed an autonomous housing project to help the homeless. Tiny Village, the name of the project, is a small village built on private property and made up of single-roomed houses completely funded by private donations.
And as of Nov. 15, the organization finished three homes, which will house four people, including one couple, just in time for the holidays. Built by a group of homeless individuals along with members of Occupy Madison, Inc. and the community, each of the three 98-square-feet homes include a roof, insulated walls, bathroom and kitchen— providing the homeless everything they need to function within the system.
“Our approach to working within the system came only after we realized that without dotting every 'i' and crossing every 't,' the city and the county would never let us operate—they used every opportunity to enforce ordinances, regulations and seemingly arbitrary whims against us. This paralleled precisely the persecution of everyday unaffiliated homeless individuals. When you are homeless, 'the system' is rife with obstacles designed to prevent creative innovation or adaptation—we at Occupy Madison experienced the same headaches."
Occupy Madison, Inc. is an entirely volunteer-based membership organization consisting of around 40 members. The board of directors is made up of "roughly half people who have experienced homelessness, or are currently experiencing homelessness and half who are and have been more traditionally housed," according to Occupy Madison.
Not only did Occupy Madison work tirelessly to create a stable shelter for those living in extreme poverty, the organization provides and maintains a "cooperatively run, self-managed eco-village for former homeless people to live in a sustainable way," according to Occupy Madison.
Occupy Madison, Inc. aims to complete the second phase of the project, including six more homes, a public bathroom and community room complete with a kitchen and laundry facility, in the spring.
With the criminalization of homelessness on the rise, Occupy Madison, Inc. is taking an "initiative to house the homeless." Other cities, such as Portland, Oregon, have moved forward with approved plans to construct similar tiny homes for low-income residents. And similar projects were successfully built in New York and Texas, according to Reuters.
So will more cities follow Occupy Madison, Inc.'s lead and help the homeless?