gregory kloehn repurposes trash into vibrant houses for the homeless
gregory kloehn repurposes trash into vibrant houses for the homeless gregory kloehn repurposes trash into vibrant houses for the homeless
may 07, 2014

gregory kloehn repurposes trash into vibrant houses for the homeless

gregory kloehn repurposes trash into vibrant houses for the homeless
all images courtesy of brian j reynolds



the necessity to shelter the homeless is a prevalent and widespread reality for many urban areas, including oakland, california, the hometown of american artist gregory kloehn who is using his creative capacity as an action for change. as the founder of the ‘homeless homes project‘ — a community driven initiative — kloehn has realized a low-cost, practical and imaginative solution for the construction of habitable shelters for those living on the streets. he combs through heaps of illegally dumped trash, commercial waste and excess household items piled in alleyways and discarded throughout the city, and upcycles the raw materials into walls, roofs, doors, windows, wheels and locks. kloehn describes that adopting the otherwise disused garbage as a medium for architectural development ‘diminishes money’s influence over the building process‘ and transforms the rejected debris into an object of hope and happiness.

gregory kloehn homeless homes project turns trash into vibrant houses
two colorfully painted structures made by the homeless homes project




the small-scale structures are built with a special attention to an animated color scheme and fresh design details. painted in hues like cotton candy pink, canary yellow, sky blue, and hot red, they bring a strong sense of vibrancy and spirit to each individual dwelling. tiny doors are embellished with mirrors and windows, transmitting daylight into the mobile habitat, while locks equipped on the entryways bring a sense of security and privacy to the residents.

gregory kloehn homeless homes project turns trash into vibrant houses
discarded plastic sheeting is reused as a rain-proof roof




smart use of materials and clever reinterpretations of the trash supplies constitute rain proof roofs — formed from discarded plastic sheeting — windows — made from a washing machine door — and skylights — fashioned from wooden pieces. all homes are mobile so that they can accommodate the nomadic lifestyle of homeless residents while avoiding the complexities of permanent structures.

gregory kloehn homeless homes project turns trash into vibrant houses
a small cut in the front door doubles as a window, left ajar to bring the sunlight inside

gregory kloehn homeless homes project turns trash into vibrant houses
the coolly-lit space inside comprises a smooth wooden floor and a sturdy pink framework

gregory kloehn homeless homes project turns trash into vibrant houses
two habitable mobile units, one in a mustard yellow and the other painted cotton candy pink

gregory kloehn homeless homes project turns trash into vibrant houses
a sky blue dwelling features a skylight and a side window

gregory kloehn homeless homes project turns trash into vibrant houses
the interior of the structure is fitted with a shelving unit and a painting

gregory kloehn homeless homes project turns trash into vibrant houses
a washing machine door is repurposed into a window for the house

ggregory kloehn homeless homes project turns trash into vibrant houses
a small pink unit features a large window along its side, and reflective panels across the entryway, sourced from bicycles

gregory kloehn homeless homes project turns trash into vibrant houses
the artist and a future resident move the painted structure throughout the city


  • I hate this kind of thing. A homeless person needs a real home with a real address. These cutsie numbers are just bandaids that solve nothing. A safe and stable environment is the most important thing for human existence.

    raymondo says:
  • Quite the worthy initiative, but I don’t think that being cutesy about homelessness is doing the issue any favours.

    notjealous says:
  • great stuff.
    just remember not to set camp on a hill

    a says:
  • brilliant – I am an 80 year old woman. How can I help in this project. I live in Berkeley

    kiki80 says:
  • Beautiful idea Mr. Klohen, have you ever thought of having a workshop where the people who need the houses can come and help build their homes?? Have you thought about coming to Atlanta, Georgia? There are so many people sleeping outside around the Greyhound bus station. Beautiful Ideal!!

    Julia Small says:
  • Very nice ideas! Great job, keep on the good work.

    Lou says:
  • Fabulous!!!

    uta says:
  • OK … I read people saying this is not the answer long term … But Surely they can see its a step in the Right direction??? If we but “feel” ourselves to be in their ‘shoes’ … we would know how very delighted those people are to have albeit even a tiny home! Way to go Gregory! I think you’re a GREAT example, Thank you for reaching out to the people in the ways that you can!

    Shan says:
  • Congrats !! WELL DONE ! Keep on the Amazing Work and Blessing all this People 🙂 Thanks for the Inspiration..HuGs

    Edna Kioka says:
  • Beautiful dog-houses. I think we treat dogs better then people in this country. I think the designer is trying to elevate some people’s status to at least what dogs get, but this is not right.

    Ilya Bourim says:
  • I agree with Ilya. These look like doghouses, and you have to crawl to get into them. Just because you may sometimes see a person sleeping in the shelter of a cardboard box doesn’t mean they want to live like an animal.

    Judy says:
  • For some of those amongst the people currently living on the street who are actually happier “outside the system,” especially women, this could be a good option. If the builder is focussing as much – if not more – on practicality as “cutsieness,” this could work. I note that the one with a prospective resident has a lot more head room – a good direction. A great idea to have prospective residents advise on the most useful details.

    Catherine Sutton says:
  • They may well be people-kennels, but they provide a degree of security and shelter from the elements for those who are unfortunate enough to have to live on the streets and so are a good temporary zero (or near zero) cost solution.

    kjt says:
  • This is amazing! Someone is using his talent and creativity to reduce what would end up in the landfill, and also help out a fellow human. This is not costing a single cent is tax dollars. It is not requiring any time or money from you, unless you choose to help. Maybe these people deserve a “real” home, but if an organization were building the homeless new homes, half of you would complain that you had to work for what you have. Not claiming to know the answer, but I’m sure these people are thankful to be out of the elements and have a place to lay their heads. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. This guy is doing a lot. I love it!

    joanna says:
  • I think what this man is doing is great. He’s not asking anyone for their time or money. While the homes may be small, it’s a roof, four walls, and somewhere to lay their heads at night without having to worry about the elements. Doing is difficult, putting someone down for doing is easy.

    Alicia says:
  • Is there even enough space to lie down fully stretched out? I see some advantage to these as temporary in-between steps on the road to permanent housing, but these look like they’d feel very claustrophobic.

    Teresa says:
  • It is really a brilliant idea. The house looks so beautiful. Making house using dumped trash helps homeless people and also can save the earth.

    nina says:
  • hey, i want to help too – this is great.

    emil says:
  • They could have made them a little bigger…. it just looks like a dog house….. if that really is for a human then it is mean and undignified…. what are they thinking????

    stefanie foster says:
  • I am so thankful to God that I have a roof over my head. It is not a house any more, just a small apartment since my husband is no longer here, but it is a home to me. If I were homeless I would thank God for the opportunity to have one of these little roof’s over my head. I wish there were more people doing this. It’s great and for all the negativity I read here, just think, if you were homeless, would you rather sleep here, or somewhere on the ground? It could happen to any one of us at any time. God Bless the man doing this and I pray it gives many more the same idea. <3

    A. Runions says:
  • I’m with Joanna on this one. This is ONE persons way of helping out. I’m sure that if the others that are complaining about this would stop complaining and help out with the homeless problem these SMALL FREE SHELTERS would be a bit different. Come on if you have a better idea that won’t cost huge amounts of money let’s hear it. The world is bad enough as it is. There’s no reason for YOU to make it any worse. I myself would like to help. What can I do?

    Randy says:
  • This is a great idea! Yes, they do look like dog houses, but it is better than nothing! At least he is doing something and for the homeless people this is probably a tiny little castle. They don’t have to sleep on the cold floor and they can close a door. Their door that they don’t have to share with someone else!

    Melanie says:
  • Are you doing any of ths in San Fancisco? I can help. But what bout the law? Is this going over well?

    Carlotta says:
  • This is so cool and creative! I applaud the heart behind this! Yes, it IS a Band-Aid, but it’s better than sleeping in a doorway downtown, or a cardboard box, or park bench. This isn’t just about the actual little houses either, it’s bringing awareness to the issue, it’s amazing that someone puts this much time and effort into doing something for people with less. If you’re poo-pooing it, I think you are missing the point. It will take time for our social services to change for the better. So we need bandages for the interim, these kinds of acts are not “problem solvers” they are helpers, and they are inspiring. Put aside your inner critic and take it for what it’s worth, if you want to see more done then walk the walk, and appreciate those who are even just trying! I for one see this kind of thing and it makes me want to do more as well! It makes me smile that there are people out there who care. Look at all the comments that are about helping! Those are the comments that matter, and will manifest into true change! 3 cheers for people who see hope, and 3 prayers for those who can’t see it yet!

    Coco says:
  • I think this man will be blessed for what he is doing. What does is say in the good book? If you did something for one of these, you did it for me! And you have to laugh at all the negative response. We all want to know, what have you done for the homeless??

    Debbie says:
  • Bravo! If everyone found one way to help homeless people live better, safer lives, what a different world we would live in. Here’s someone who has built 30 shelters for homeless people using a lot of ingenuity and effort. Imagine if everyone pitched in !!!

    Kris says:

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