Perhaps your first reaction to the idea of using toilets as homes is one of disdain. Most of us do relatively little to help the homeless community, but is this really respecting their dignity?
Well, after you hear the story of T.K. Devine you’ll likely agree that it most certainly is – and it’s a clever and effective way to help address a housing crisis that so many ignore.
He knows how it feels
Mr. Devine knows what it’s like to be homeless. He lived out of his car for 4 years when he finally got the idea to use inspiration from the tiny house movement to address the plight of college students and other populations priced out of the housing market in L.A. and struggling with home insecurity.
A graduate of the University of Florida and Northwestern University, he’s proving that living small in a big city is possible.
Living and learning
In 2018, he told Upworthy that in L.A., 1 in 5 community college students and 1 in 10 Cal State students were dealing with homelessness or on the brink of becoming homeless. These are people trying to better themselves and contribute to their communities, but lacking a key ingredient for success – reliable housing; a basic need.
In 2010, when Devine moved to LA, an apartment was around $1000 a month in Venice Beach where he lived. Eight years later, it was well over twice as much. So he knows what it’s like to be priced out of living space (and that was just renting!).
Living in a “tiny toilet”
The solution he came up with sounds anything but glamorous at first, but the tiny homes are simply just the shells of handicapped-accessible portable bathrooms that have more space than a regular portable toilet.
Are they luxurious? No, of course not. But they do give people a place to call home, somewhere to lay their heads, store their things, and make their own.
Devine started his company Our Backyard Homes to build unique living facilities that didn’t rely on city infrastructure but that would actually bring the community together in some way.
The units don’t need city water or electricity hookups, for example. There are solar panels that help run things, including a generator that pulls moisture from the air and produces around 10 gallons a day.
A hot water heater is extra-efficient so that residents don’t have to waste water trying to wait for it to get warm.
After the water is used, it gets filtered and shuttled up to a rooftop garden!
A composting toilet also helps keep water waste down and makes the unit largely self-contained.
But no matter how off-the-grid these tiny homes are, you still need somewhere to put them. That’s why Devine is trying to partner with L.A. homeowners who have some extra space to spare.
He told Upworthy that there are roughly half a million residential yards in the city limits and he’s confident that some homeowners would share their space with these tiny homes – especially if they got special incentives through things like tax breaks.
The units can be easily rolled onto a property and don’t require any other shared resources with the homeowners. Devine thinks this will also help bring communities together.
There’s no place like home
At the time of the interview, the units ran about $20,000-25,000 and included fold-out components like storage space, a desk/table, and a murphy bed. But he was confident some units could be produced for half the price.
That’s a lot less than it costs to rent an apartment in L.A. for a year.
With all the thoughtful elements involved, it’s more than just a place to crash each night – it’s a comfortable (if small) space that allows them to be self-sufficient without being bled dry by exorbitant rents. And it gives students in need a place to call home.
Be sure to scroll down below for an interview with the mastermind behind the clever project and a tour of a tiny home!
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