This Innovative Solution is Housing Homeless Families

Repurposing shipping containers into homes is an out-of-the-box solution.

Nov 27, 2020


This Innovative Solution is Housing Homeless Families | Repurposing shipping containers into homes is an out-of-the-box solution.

When John Kilgore of Los Angeles, California moved his family into their new home, he was thrilled, he recounted to CNN. Two years ago, the family of six entered their fully furnished four-bedroom residence with a kitchen, bathroom, and small living room, for the first time.

But the Kilgore family’s new digs weren’t in a ranch-style house or standard apartment, rather, their new home is a recycled and converted shipping container.  

“We came in...with it being furnished and everything…we had everything we needed in there already, all we had to do was bring what little clothes we had,” Kilgore told CNN. What’s more, his children were especially delighted with their new home.

The move marked a fresh chapter in the life of a family that had faced serious challenges. Kilgore said that he and his five children had struggled to find stable housing for years, bouncing from place to place and crashing on couches and floors of family and friends until they received the call that they were approved for this an out-of-the-box solution for housing homeless families.

Flyaway Homes repurposed old shipping containers to build the supportive permanent housing complex where the Kilgore family now reside. But these aren’t regular shipping containers, they’re fully insulated units featuring luxury touches such as stainless-steel appliances and mineral countertops. Each unit of stacked containers houses 32 people, and a resident manager.

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Ending homelessness through sustainable methods is Flyaway Homes’ mission. They launched the shipping container communities project in conjunction with The People Concern, a nonprofit organization that helps address the effects of homelessness  

According to a video on Flyaway Homes’ website, shipping container housing costs just one quarter of the price of building traditional affordable housing units, and can be done in one quarter of the time. By repurposing already existing shipping containers, construction time and costs are significantly reduced.

In the video, Flyaway Homes founder and chairman Steaven K. Jones explained why traditional affordable housing is not an effective solution for solving the homelessness crisis.

“First, it costs $400,000 per person to go through the traditional housing model,” he said. “Secondly, it takes up to five years to go through the entire process to complete a project, through the bureaucracy of the city, and all the other steps. And we don’t have the time.”

The development time for the shipping container communities, from assembling of the units to laying the groundwork, takes just ten months. Shipping container units require much less time for permitting and zoning than traditional housing complexes.

“Because the modular units can be stacked together in different configurations, we can easily adapt our design for different lot sizes, which means our design process can be reduced to about one month,” said Lawry Meister, president of Flyaway Homes. “The actual assembly of the modules only takes three days,” she said.

But getting people housed doesn’t mean that the cycle of homelessness has been broken. According to the organization, connecting formerly homeless people with services is a critical factor in ensuring that they stay housed, so residents of Flyaway Homes communities regularly meet with advocates and social workers from the People Concern.

In fact, over 92 percent of the residents of the complex where the Kilgore family lives remained housed after one year, a result that can be attributed to the supportive services offered by the agencies.

Flyaway Homes’ success has attracted the attention of Los Angeles County’s Homeless Initiative. Winning the bureau’s 2019 Innovation Challenge, Flyaway Homes was awarded a $1 million grant to continue its efforts.

With another housing project expected to house 16 homeless families currently in the works, the Flyaway Homes model is proving to be an ingenious solution. The success of the project proves that innovation and out-of-the-box thinking aren’t just for tech companies in Silicon Valley. By taking a creative approach to solving a long-term social issue, major positive social change is possible.

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Fascinated by storytelling since childhood, Lauren is passionate about the written word. She’s a freelance writer who has covered everything from the latest developments in tech to geopolitics. When she’s not writing, Lauren is interested in genealogical research and family folklore.