Introduction: Micro Shelter for the Homeless

Picture of Micro Shelter for the Homeless

This is my very first video. Please forgive me for anything I may have excluded in this build video.

So...I decided to build a high end micro shelter for someone in need. I've seen several of these built by very well meaning people. I thought I would just take it a step farther by making this shelter more like a true micro home. In the very near future I will be giving this shelter to a homeless person in need. Winter is just around the corner. I live in upstate NY and winters can get very harsh here. As you will see in the video this shelter is extremely well built. The idea is to have a place where a person can get out of bad weather and keep warm and comfortable.

I will be including with this shelter a low voltage electric heater, MRE's (Meal Ready to Eat), water, sleeping pad and sleeping bag, toiletries and SOLAR POWER. I also added to all four sides of the exterior motion sensing solar powered security lighting. This gives the occupant an added sense of security at night. I believe these are the basics a person needs to get by and survive and perhaps even better their life in some small way. There is a 12v TV and radio in the shelter. The awning windows are double pained. Just because a person is homeless does not mean they should not have some form of entertainment and comfort.

This hole project was built by myself and my daughter. The video captures the build from beginning to end.

Thank You!


prohamgineer (author)2016-08-17

Interesting, but have qustions... How will the shelters be deployed and will they and the occupants run up against local ordinances and zoning? State law? How will the 12 VDC be provided? How easy will it be for the owners of the shelters to retain possession?

DavidA207 (author)prohamgineer2016-08-19

The shelter is on wheels and not subject to the same laws as a permanent structure. I am working with the a city here to make sure where it is place will pose no problem. The shelter is as secure as your home with a solid door and a key. Most homeless people will not leave their possessions more than a few feet from themselves so I figure they will keep it close. Besides...I am dooing a lot of leg work on this...but I can only do so much. Once the shelter has it's new owner, I have to let them take responsability for it. What happen after I give it away is beyond my control.

Thank You

tankapotamus (author)DavidA2072016-11-22

As someone who has had a lot of experience with homeless people and drug addicts, you are doing them no favors by giving them handouts. While your heart may be in the right place, it is a bit misguided. You are only strengthening their dependence on others and not helping them see that they need to help themselves. As harsh as it may sound, they have to hit rock bottom and get to the point that they want to work for what they need. I can not count the number of homeless people who were only homeless because they could get by on handouts. Try finding someone who is homeless because of mental illness. I know there are a few homeless people that are seriously unable to help themselves. Unfortunately, the vast majority are just junkies that haven't reached rock bottom yet.

From: A former homeless junkie

DavidA207 (author)2016-08-29

It's all good...I understand where belsey is coming from. Thanks for the support. Sometimes the intent that is written and how someone else reads it can be two very different things. No harm no foul!!!

belsey (author)DavidA2072016-08-31

Thanks so much, that's a big relief -- I felt terrible when I saw your first reaction to my comment. Clearly I expressed myself very poorly, but I'm glad I was able to convince you I didn't mean to be mean.

Mjtrinihobby (author)belsey2016-10-19

Hey don't feel bad! Your comment was valid!

what a golden heart person!!you have my respect!

milesnorth (author)2016-09-16

Super lovely! Have wanted to try something similar on a sled/ski type base for up here in Alaska. Sort of like a "nicer" dog sled style microshelter. I am very curious about the heater system, and I love that your daughter helped you out! Gonna give this some though :-)

Chitlange Sahas (author)2016-09-11

Feature Worthy work. Could you include steps of build??


Ima Pseudonym (author)2016-09-06

What a fantastic amount of detail in the design, I love the way the door and walls look. Looking forward to what your next Instructables will bring.

Just wondering: where will your solar panels go? Will they be fixed to the roof or will they be separate units (either stand-alone or temporarily attachable to wall/roof)?

DavidA207 (author)Ima Pseudonym2016-09-06

Thank You....

Solar Panels will be permanent.

PaulS69 (author)2016-09-02

This is a fantastic design. Beautiful in it's simplicity.

robeml (author)2016-08-23

Thank you David for a heartfelt project. We all are so grateful that our heart identifies us and not others comments and opinions. However their comments identify the state of their heart and their character. With thanks from a Grammy. You have an awesome character, enjoy.

belsey (author)robeml2016-08-29

Yes, I have a very dark and evil soul... but seriously, for the record, I admire the author's generosity and intentions which are as impeccable as his building skills. My comment had merely been a sincere and heartfelt question about the reason behind his design choice of a low ceiling. I couldn't figure that out, which makes me stupid, I guess, but does not really identify the state of my heart and character.

DavidA207 (author)2016-08-21

To call my hard work a glorified dog house is an insult. Clearly you do not get the point of this project. It was not to make a house, but to make a MICRO Shelter. A place a person could sleep in safety and comfort. To provide the basics for a person to feel a much better degree of comfort over sleeping in a cardboard box, park bench or on a sidewalk. To make this even 6 foot tall would have doubled the cost and made it much heavier and harder to move. At 4 foot it is lighter and one can move it far easier. If one needs to stand, all one needs to do is step out and stand. This is not meant to be a permanent fix, but a temporary alternative. Having been temporarily homeless myself for a short time, I would have given anything to sleep in this relative comfort. And believe me when I say, when you are homeless, and someone gives you a "Dog House" of this quality, the last thing it is to you as a homeless person is a dog's a shelter! But hey, no criticism intended. Thank You.

belsey (author)DavidA2072016-08-23

I'm sorry you took my question about the shelter's height as criticism -- I had tried to word it carefully, because I truly didn't mean to be insulting (and I did not call it a glorified dog house). I did say it's quite obvious given the time, effort and expense you put into this that your heart is in the right place. However I was honestly curious about the size, and why you (and others who have built similar projects for the homeless) opted to build a shelter too low to stand in. All the micro shelters I've seen which people build for themselves are tall enough for a person to stand in... and all those I've seen built for the homeless seemed to be very low. Clearly there must be a reason for this I couldn't understand. Since you put so much thought and effort into this, I thought you'd be the best person to explain this. I'm surprised that 2-3 extra feet of head room would double the construction cost -- maybe using marine grade plywood rather than the beautiful cedar you bought would have helped for that? But the weight and mobility issue makes perfect sense. Is this shelter on wheels, so it can be pulled by it's user wherever they'd like? It's hard to see in the photos. I also thought maybe the reason to make it as small as possible was for heat, since for safety (and power) reasons I'm sure you couldn't put a heater in there. And really, no criticism was intended, on the contrary your project made me curious. Which is a good thing, don't you think?

DavidA207 (author)belsey2016-08-23

It is built on large caster wheels. In part I built this for the enjoyment and mostly for the thought of giving it away. I wanted to build someting a person could move short distances on their own. A structure that is 6 feet tal is very hard to move and almost doubles the weight. most of these smaller shelters are made with the fact that it is a place to be safe in very bad weather and not so much a permanant home. I could have made it out of marine grade plywood, but i wanted it to be more pleasing to the eye and not look like a wooden dumpster. I am 6'-2" and am able to get in and out of it fine.It is surprisingly comfortable and smells great. Have a good day!

belsey (author)DavidA2072016-08-23

I guess the mobility is the part I misunderstood -- it's so well made, with such nice materials I thought of it more like a permanent structure which you would be putting out on the edge of your property or in an authorized public area. Then it would just stay there... And again your plan for solar power and TV also made it seem like it would be a semi-permanent structure for someone rather than a one-night rain storm stop-gap. With that assumption the size was hard to comprehend. It looked too big to be pushed around, but it seemed too short to be a comfortable long term refuge for someone. As a designer, I was intrigued by the social, architectural, and design questions this structure poses. Who is it for (the homeless are a very diverse group of people...and maybe you had a specific person in mind)? How would it be used? What is the specific problem, and how does this design solve it? (these are rhetorical questions, the type of thing I ask myself when I'm designing). So I hope you understand now that I was in no way criticizing your work or motives. It's a complex problem, and there are no simple solutions.

Doc Wyoming (author)belsey2016-08-28

To look at this in a different direction, I built a 5x10 foot Tiny Traveling Tea House. My only regret in the build was the attempt to make it high enough to stand up in! It was a terrible mistake for several reasons:

1) Think carefully about how much you actually stand up in your house in the first place. Seriously. Yes, you walk in, you may walk from room to room, but for the most part you sit, or even recline when you are in your house. The major reason for standing/walking is usually to go from room to room. WELL... when you have one room, where are you going to walk to?

2) The higher the structure, the more difficulty in moving it.

3) The additional cost both in construction and in heating/cooling do not warrant it.

When I build my next version of a traveling tea house, it will be built to the height that allows for comfortable seating. That's it!

belsey (author)Doc Wyoming2016-08-29

Thanks, your experience was very illuminating. No matter how much you think and plan ahead of time, nothing beats actually seeing how your project functions in real life and learning from your mistakes (some of which you might see yourself immediately, some which might be pointed out by others -- as I see it even negative criticism is positive). I couldn't wrap my mind around this one because the author had said in the description he wanted to make it a micro home rather than a simple micro shelter, and I didn't realize it was supposed to be mobile... but of course if it has to move it must be a small as possible -- besides the building expense, mobility and heat issue, a tall structure not attached to a proper, level foundation would be dangerous, it could easily flip during high winds.

DavidA207 (author)Doc Wyoming2016-08-29

Wow...Someone gets it! LOL...Well, actually, a lot of people get it. Thank You.

DavidA207 (author)belsey2016-08-29

All Good.....Thank You for looking!

jzledwards (author)DavidA2072016-08-23

Just ignore the poor comments. Nice one.

DavidA207 (author)jzledwards2016-08-29

Thank You!

DavidA207 (author)jzledwards2016-08-23

Thank You....Very Much!

nekokristiaan (author)DavidA2072016-08-21

Thank you for this, David. I appreciate your work. ^_^ (It's not a doghouse.)

DavidA207 (author)nekokristiaan2016-08-22

Thank You very much!!!

BillS162 (author)2016-08-19

What was the total cost and BOM for this project? I can't pitch it to the community if I don't know what the outlay is.

DavidA207 (author)BillS1622016-08-19

I did this as a personal project...Did not keep an accurate cost on this project. build it to the same standared without the solar and elecronics and lighting can be done for under 2000.00. But...that may be a bit much as well. Could be built with .25 inch plywood and cheaper windows for far far less.

Pawsome4 (author)DavidA2072016-08-25

A lady in the US built a tiny home on wheels, using reclaimed building materials, mostly from Craigs List, and from donations. It cost her R$3000 plus minus and I heard she sold it for around $40,000. Maybe you could also source your materials from Craigs List or from salvage companies. Just a thought for when money's tight.

Misplaced hippie (author)2016-08-22

First of all, I just want to thank you for having such a huge heart! If I were homeless, having to sleep on the cold, hard ground, and someone gave me this little shelter, with a nice warm soft bed AND a T.V., I would be deliriously happy! Forget about weather I can "stand up" in it or not. Believe me, that's the last thing that a homeless person is thinking about! Who ever is lucky enough to get this little jewel is going to be very thankful! Thanks for being such a selfless will be rewarded greatly. Karma is a wonderful thing! I know that you didn't do it just looking for something in return though. Beautiful work too!

Thank You very much....

DavidA207 (author)2016-08-19

Just wanted to thank everyone so far on the great feedback. Love this web site!!!

GrandMaMaw (author)2016-08-18

I like your thinking of others. I am trying to find an idea for single unit family shelters for the abused and a shelter for teens that have either run away or been kicked out. I will be checking in on you to see what else you come with.

Great Job! Your family must be proud.

DavidA207 (author)GrandMaMaw2016-08-19

Thank You...

jonfrei (author)2016-08-18

What was your total cost?

DavidA207 (author)jonfrei2016-08-18

That's a good question...I have not kept track of cost because I was not doing this on a budget so to speak. Over $2000 I think.

radmans (author)2016-08-16

This looks fantastic! Can you show some pictures of the finished interior too, please?

DavidA207 (author)radmans2016-08-16

Interior pics Posted...Thank You!

radmans (author)DavidA2072016-08-16

that's sweet! looks really good... nicely done.

AnitaM15 (author)2016-08-16


ClenseYourPallet (author)2016-08-16

What a great idea! Thanks for sharing your project

seamster (author)2016-08-16

This looks really well made! I think someone would absolutely love to have this to stay in. Nice work :)

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