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Tiny Homes: Solution to Homelessness or Urban Nuisance? 

Tiny Homes: Solution to Homelessness or Urban Nuisance?  Read Transcript


CHARLENE AARON: The homeless population

in Los Angeles County recently soared

23% over just the last year.

4,000 homeless just blocks from City Hall.

Unfortunately, that is just a small percentage of the city's

homeless population.

CHARLENE AARON: According to "The LA Times,"

the startling jump has touched every significant group,

including youth, families, veterans,

and the chronically homeless.


In 2015, Elvis Summers, once homeless himself,

started tackling the problem, one tiny house at a time.

It all started after he became friends

with a woman named Irene McGhee, better known as Smokie.

It was really hard.

People talk crazy to you.

Give me to you.

Talk about you're a ghetto woman pushing a basket.

CHARLENE AARON: She had been homeless for 10 years following

the loss of her husband.

One day I was just like, you know, Smokie,

I know you said you lived down the street, but where exactly?

And so I made her walk me down there and show me,

and it was one of the houses down the street.

It's like a strip of dirt next to the house and a broken


And she was like, I sleep over there.

And I'm like, well, where over there?

And she says, right by that chair.

And it just got to me.

CHARLENE AARON: That moved Summers

to build Smokie a place she could call home, a tiny home.

I just asked her.

I said, how would you feel if I built you a little mini house.

And I love her response.

She said, when's it going to be ready?

[LAUGHS] I went to Home Depot and bought $500 worth of wood,

and threw it on the ground and went,

[LAUGHS] OK, let's build a little teeny house.

CHARLENE AARON: It took five days to build a 3 and 1/2

by 8 foot house.

Video of his helpful construction went viral.

Since then, Summers has raised more than $100,000

to build more of these houses for people in his community.


Each of these homes has an actual address listed on them,

giving those who live here a sense of ownership

and security.

ELVIS SUMMERS: That's what people want, just a place

to rest their head.

So I put an address on there to mentally help that lift.

CHARLENE AARON: CBN News was there

when Summers presented this homeless man with a place

to call his own.

This house right here is yours.

Why don't you come and take a look?

I even put some Marine flags in it for you,

since you're a Marine.

And if someone opens the window--


Oh man, I love it.

Oh, I love it.

Oh, sorry.

Oh no, I love it.

Oh, that too.

CHARLENE AARON: Some local governments around the country

are also using this method to help their homeless,

from Chicago to Portland, Oregon,

where the idea has grown to tiny house villages.

But now back in LA, officials see the small houses

as nuisances, with some saying they pose health and safety


"These wooden shacks are not the real estate

I'm looking for in my district," said Councilman Joe Buscaino.

Councilman Curren Price said, "I'm getting complaints

from constituents who have to walk in the streets

to avoid them."

Earlier this year, the city council

moved to seize the homes without prior notice.

Summers captured this video as three houses were confiscated.

He managed to move eight of them to Faith Community Church,

but the people who lived in them were once again on the street.

And it was like, it was like watching

Linus in "The Peanuts," drag the blanket away.

It was heartbreaking.

It was one of the worst days.

CHARLENE AARON: Tim Chambers pastors Faith Community.

It hurts my heart how the city has

been taking the homes from the homeless

and wanting to destroy them if they didn't have somewhere

else to put them.

Elvis is, and I am too, trying to see

if we can get some property somewhere to be

able to set these homes up and set up a homeless encampment

to be able to allow them to have a place.

CHARLENE AARON: After months of backlash and media attention,

the city is developing a process to work

with nonprofit groups, including Summers,

to help those living on the streets.

Meanwhile, Smokie recently passed away.

She was a wonderful human being.

She was my friend.

CHARLENE AARON: Her memory, says Summers,

motivates him to help others.

ELVIS SUMMERS: I can't just go and change the whole world,

but I can do my best to change the world around me.

And that's what I'm trying to do.

And I hope that in the process, it

inspires other people to just take a second, and be better.

CHARLENE AARON: Charlene Aaron, CBN News, Compton, California.



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