Elvis Summers is not part of any nonprofit or government agency. He’s just a 38-year-old guy with a Mohawk and tattooed arms who started a GoFundMe campaign last spring so he could build tiny houses for homeless people to live in. He got the idea after befriending a homeless woman in his neighborhood.
“It just got to me, you know, I’m just like, you know, everybody in this neighborhood knows you, they like you,” he says. “Why does nobody give a crap that you’re sleeping in the dirt? Literally.”
So far Summer has given out 37 tiny 6- by 8-foot houses, which cost $1,200 each to build. They resemble sheds, painted in bright, solid colors, with solar panels on the roof, wheels to make them mobile and a portable camping toilet.
But recently, city sanitation workers confiscated three of the houses from a sidewalk in South Los Angeles and tagged others for removal.
“Unfortunately, these structures are a safety hazard,” says Connie Llanos, a spokeswoman for LA Mayor Eric Garcetti. “These structures, some of the materials that were found in some of them, just the thought of folks having some of these things in a space so small, so confined, without the proper insulation, it really does put their lives in danger.”
Llanos says they’d be better off taking advantage of official resources like shelters or housing vouchers.
According to the latest count, 44,000 people live on the streets in and around LA. The city’s sweep put some people back on the sidewalks and since then Summers has been handing out tents instead.