A man named Elvis Summers had been building and giving away small wooden houses with solar-powered lights (and American flags) to the homeless in L.A. over the past year after receiving more than $100,000 in donations from around the world through a GoFundMe page. But now, the city wants them to go.
Some of the homes have been removed as part of a street cleanup, while others were seized by Bureau of Sanitation to stamp out street encampments.
So far, three tiny houses for homeless dwellers have been disassembled and confiscated, following an order issued by Curren Price, Los Angeles City councilman for District 9.
"I don’t refer to these as homes or houses because they’re really not," said Bureau of Sanitation spokeswoman Elena Stern. "They're temporary structures, and while the intent may be noble and good, the structures are not fit for people to stay in them."
"They're illegal," she added. "They weren't built up to code, there's no running water, the electrical was not done by somebody licensed. They're not safe."
Since the city does not classify the structures as houses, no eviction notice is legally required, but Stern said the bureau has provided residents of tiny homes slated for removal at least 24 hours notice. The authorities also have the liberty to confiscate and destroy the structures.
Despite opposition, Summers said he will continue building for the homeless, including more tiny homes for veterans and a mobile shower unit. He also plans to rally the homeless residents he’s worked with and file a class action lawsuit against the city.
Mayor Eric Garcetti declared homelessness a state of emergency last fall, and the city has approved a rough 10-year plan for ending chronic homelessness. It is projected to cost $1.85 billion, however, the city has no plan yet for finding that money.
At this point, L.A. is in over its head with its homelessness crisis. The city’s homeless population has increased by over 50 percent in the past few years alone. There are now 60,000 homeless people and not enough beds to go around. As it stands, over 30,000 people literally sleep on the streets each night, illustrating that the city is still a long way away from pretending it has better alternatives than tiny houses.
"I will not quit and I will not turn my back on these people," Summers said. "I will still fight this all the way."