Feb 28, 2013
We've successfully moved out of the old warehouse and gotten everything into the new space. We're now working on building out the workspace, which will hopefully take a only few weeks.
Feb 5, 2013
From a recent email to the volunteers:
...Now, y'all may recall that our tenure at our current address, the warehouse at Permalume, is coming to an end. We've had a great ten years there, subletting our space from the wonderful Furniture Bank of Metro Atlanta. Sadly, the Furniture Bank is moving and simply cannot take us along into their new space. We've been aware of this since 2011 and had started the search this fall for a new space for the Housers to move into, ahead of the expiry of the Furniture Bank's lease in August 2013.
But in November, we were informed that the Furniture Bank's Board of Directors had decided to try to break lease six months ahead of schedule. To do that, we'd also have to be out six months earlier than planned. Suddenly, our August deadline was February, which, as you may imagine, increased the pressure on us considerably. Add in the normal winter surge of demand and the interruptions that the winter holidays bring, and you may understand why you haven't really heard much from me recently.Over the past few months, I've been searching for a place for us to purchase. Basically, housing costs are so low thanks to the '09 market crash that it's far cheaper for us to buy a place and fix it up than to rent. The trick was finding a place that would work for us physically and financially. And lo and behold, we seem to be in luck: last Thursday I signed on a house in southwest Atlanta with a detached double garage apartment. The plan is to rent out the front house and turn the apartment into the new home for the Housers. We're moving out of our folks' place at last!
Now our challenge is the moving and the fixing up. And make no mistake, it's a challenge - a big one. We have a little over four weeks to make the garage unit habitable, and there's lots of work to be done. On the warehouse side, we've stopped ordering new materials and are instead trying to deploy as much lumber as possible as new shelters. So we've got a triple load of work to do over the next few weeks: fix up the new place, pack up the old place, and in the meantime continue to shelter our clients. Simple, right?Here's how I see it happening: over the next two to three weeks, we'll be deploying shelters and packing up the warehouse as professionals work on making the new space habitable, getting the power turned back on and the permits done. Once the pros have the lights back on, we'll go in and turn the rebuilt space into our new home, setting up our shop and moving our stuff into place. Now frankly, I don't expect us to be ready to resume production of shelters by March. But I do think that we should be safely out of our old space by then and sitting around with a lot of construction going on around us. By April, however, we should be back online.
Oct 15, 2012
Nick here. Every so often, we have some sort of design problem - er, sorry "challenge" - that gives us fits. This is usually because, hey, we're not actually architects (or engineers, or construction workers, or public health experts, etc). Therefore, I'm going to try to work with the wisdom of crowds here, which means I'm going to be very lazy and ask the Internet to see if maybe YOU can come up with a solution. Hence, I Am Not An Architect.
So, for my inaugural I am Not An Architect post, I want to talk insulation. With our fullsize huts, we don't worry too much about insulation beyond taking care of the roof and floor, because the huts are actively heated with our stoves. But our Low Rider structures, which measure only 4 feet high by 4' x 8', clearly cannot take a stove - we have yet to come up with any safe, practical way to heat such a small space. Therefore, we insulate every panel of a Low Rider - floor, ceiling, walls, all of it.
This works well enough for the wintertime, but for all the other season, it can make the Low Riders too darn stuffy. So we have to figure a way to stricke a balance: how do we keep our clients safe in the coldest nights but keep them reasonably comfortable during the warmer months?
Please keep in mind that the answer does not have to be construction-based! We're currently experimenting with getting rid of the wall insulation on the Low Riders and instead giving a good-quality sleeping bag with each one. Any solution to the problem must be simple to implement - remember, we're not cuonstruction professionals, either - and preferably low-cost.
Send your suggestions to email@example.com. If we like it, we'll try it, and give you the credit. Thanks!
Dec 9, 2011
Here's a kind and informative blog entry about the Housers from the Energy Vangaurd blog. It's not often that we get blog entries that are as in-depth as EV's; clearly, the author lives and breathes his work. If you're a construction nerd like I am, you'll want to check out the EV blog - it's well-written, informative, and updated often - something we need to do here...
Dec 8, 2011
The radio article in WABE was very nice, and it demonstrated what I call the "win-win-win" nature of the Housers outreach.
In the article, the reporter met not only our client for the build, James, but also a family whose house backs up to the lot where we deployed the shelter. James' having a shelter made the family happy, because by keeping criminals away from his area, he also keeps them away from their house. So stabilizing James' situation also helps to stabilize the neighborhood, which is win-win; but also, because James and the community are mutually supporting each other, the Housers don't have to worry about the site, either - so it's win-win-win.
This is an aspect of our outreach that many folks don't recognize: that once a homeless person has a stable shelter in the neighborhood, they become invested in that neighborhood. Before having a shelter, a client has nothing to lose; but once a client has his own place, he's less interested in trouble that could hurt his own household. They now have a stake in their future and in their community's future, and that stake makes a big difference.
Now, I'm not going to argue that every homeless person is perfectly rational operator or that there aren't idiots among the homeless. But that holds true for the population at large!
At the end of the day, we should ask ourselves: would we rather know who our neighbors are or not? As long as we pursue a strategy of sweeping homeless away, we'll never know for sure who's staying in that patch of woods. Ultimately, helping our neighbors helps ourselves.
Nov 29, 2011
Atlanta's public radio station WABE (90.1 FM) will have a segment on the Mad Housers on their "City Cafe" program, which runs from noon 'til one, this upcoming Monday, December 5. Give it a listen!
Nov 15, 2011
Yesterday, a team of us went out to see a cluster of small camps in a south Atlanta suburb, to make a few repairs and ensure that people would be able to weather winter safely. While out there, we saw two recently built structures with easy-to-make construction flaws, the types of things that can happen when you're inexperienced or you're moving too fast and get sloppy.
I'm not showing these to shame the folks who built them; in each case, there's a way to correct the errors, and we'll go over them. Instead, these mistakes illustrate two important principles: first, that minor mistakes can have major consequences; and second, that minimal design can give you the flexibility to adapt your structure to its environment and recover from mistakes easily.
Mistake one: forgot the insulation.
Our Low Rider shelters are to small to put a heating source in safely, so the sleeping units are built with rigid insulation incorporated into the panels. However, one Low Rider deployed into the field was built by students and didn't have the insulation. As a result, the client is looking at a winter sheltered only by 3/8" plywood walls with no heat source.
Solution: Rock 'em Old School
These days, our insulated panels are built stud-insulation-plywood - the insulation is faces the client, nailed into place between the plywood and the lumber. We wrap the client-facing side of the fragile insulation with house wrap to protect it from being shredded accidentally by the client.
However, it wasn't always that way. Before we moved the insulation between the stud and the plywood, we used to build the sleeping unit panels with plywood and stud and put the insulation on the outside of the structure, like a jacket. Over that insulation we'd add another layer of thin plywood, to make a sandwich:
There's nothing wrong with this approach, it's just heavier and more expensive. In fact, for colder climates, it's probably a more suitable solution, since you'd be able to work with thicker sheets of insulation more easily. But for Atlanta, moving the insulation inside made sense. For this particular Low Rider, however, we'll be bringing out rigid insulation and additional ply to jacket up the client's Low Rider. Problem solved!
Mistake Two: The Backwards Roof
Another structure, a hi-hat, had its roof on backwards. What's that, you say? How can a roof be put on backwards?
Well, a Hi-Hat's roof is asymmetric - it's higher on one side than on the other. And the asymmetric gables of these
Oct 28, 2011