English Español
Where Volunteers Make a Difference

Homelessness and Tiny House Village 

Article by Larry Orr, Foster Grandparent Volunteer

I was lucky. When my income dropped due to the pandemic, just as my aging knees were getting just too persnickety on the stairs, I looked around for a different room to rent, and found that the pickings were slim: decent rooms in Madison are expensive. Occupy Madison, Inc. came to the rescue! I now live in a comfy tiny house, set in greenery along a courtyard in their Tiny House Village, with four very interesting new friends, each with their own tiny home. It's a fine situation for me, but that's not really what I want to write about.

Homelessness is on my mind, the big, very evident problem of homelessness in Madison. Winter is coming. There is misery ahead. Some folks are sleeping on the streets now, on cardboard. Others are in hand-me-down tents in encampments under a freeway or in a park. There are many homeless folks in Madison now, and it is likely that there will be many more as the economy contracts.

To help alleviate this, Occupy Madison, Inc. will offer comfortable housing, "Conestoga Huts," to some 30 people, starting now. It's part of the answer to the problem, but of course not the total answer. We offer a model, and a beam of hope. I hope that other good responses to the problem will come along quickly. Occupy Madison has purchased a vacant property, the former Wiggy's Bar, near Wisconsin's Job Service offices on Aberg Avenue and Madison Metro's North Transfer Point. We are building very tiny houses, called "Conestoga Huts," about half the size of my tiny house. There is room for a bed, a chair, and a bit of space. There is an infrared heater, an electrical outlet, and Wi-Fi. “The huts are well insulated.” We can build them for around $2000. Please check our Website, Occupymadisoninc.com, for details about the huts, our villages, ways that you could volunteer to help us build homes, and ways to contribute.

In brief, homeless folks apply to join us, and then help to build their own homes. We have an assembly line that produces the Conestogas very quickly. With a renovated and remodeled Winny's as the center of the new village, formerly homeless folks can get through the winter in fine shape. In the spring, some of these folks will know that they really like this style of living, and then start building tiny houses like mine to live in.

And as for me, well, I hope to be doing good service with Foster Grandparents as the schools try to find a healthy way into the future. I'll be helping with Occupy Madison's new village project. And I'll be adjusting to life after the election, working with my buddies in Veterans For Peace to promote peaceful and sane approaches to our future. I wish that I could invite you to our Villages, but pandemic restrictions should be followed. I hope that very soon, though, you will be able to visit, have a nice chat over a cup of tea, and see what a roof and warmth does for a person. Onwards!


Service Recipients Tell Us

“I am so thankful this service is available. I am 90 years old, and have no family in this area. This program keeps me independent and in my home longer.”
- Sun Prairie Passenger
Impact on Community
“RSVP, you have all done so much for Porchlight and those we serve. I am so glad that you had the chance to see the impact you make in our community. Your support means so much. Thank you.”
- Group Projects Recipient Organization