Saturday, May 03, 2003

Mad Housers & The Athens Human Rights Festival
I'm in Athens today and just visited the annual human rights festival. I spent a great deal of time at the Mad Housers booth. What a fantastic organization!! They build cheap huts for homeless people: no religious lectures, no attempts to control or coerce, no mission to turn them into middle-class consumers, no interference in their private lives. They just build houses and GIVE them away. They also teach people how to build these things themselves.

The "houses" are actually small huts, which are very simple but cleverly designed. The contain a loft space to sleep in and for storage and a small bottom area for sitting, cooking, whatever. Each hut comes with a heating stove, which is made from a metal oil-drum and a few metal cans. This stove has a pipe which runs up through the ceiling and acts as a chimney. The stove burns easily available fuel like small branches, charcoal, cardboard, paper, etc... And by sleeping in the loft, the hut-owner maximizes the heat benefits of the stove. Also, each hut is fully insulated.

Mad Housers had a sample hut at the Festival today and I was very impressed. The guy told me that each hut costs only $300... but it was very sturdy and very well designed. The hut uses a composting toilet. Most huts are put where homeless people are already camping/squatting. They can be taken down very quickly and re-located (in case the police evict the owners).

It was so refreshing to talk to folks who are dealing with the problem directly,... without some sort of suburban-condescending agenda. And of course, their approach is a brilliant solution for all of us.. not just the "involuntary" homeless.

If I ever decide to buy land, I'll build myself a Mad Housers hut! Check out their website!

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