Seattle Teens Want to Build an “Impossible City” of Moveable Homes

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

A group of Seattle teens hopes that a moveable house they’ve designed can keep local residents experiencing homelessness sheltered — even as they relocate from place to place.

The students, from the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, worked with Nickelsville community members, who are part of a roving encampment that’s been around since 2008, as well as nonprofit Sawhorse Revolution and local architects to come up with the solution.

After past run-ins with the city, the nomadic Nickelsville has shifted from temporary place to temporary place. Most recently, the group struggled with a location, after Seattle decided to authorize and regulate three homeless encampments in the city.

“There’s a need for a transportable, insulated, tiny house that provides privacy and isn’t going to be a huge burden for them when they move,” program director Sarah Smith told Fast Company.

The new home has a lofted bed with room for storage underneath, high windows for ventilation and privacy, a rubber floor that’s simple to clean, and jacks on each corner that make it easy to install on uneven ground. The team is also working on designs for a solar charging station, a community cookspace, and composting latrines.

Though the group knows the homes aren’t a systemic fix, Smith noted, “Homelessness is a really difficult thing. Everyone sees homeless people on the street, and it’s hard to know how to approach that: Why are people sleeping outside in the cold? Design allows us to ask those questions and deal with them in a really practical way.”

The group is currently crowdfunding to build the collapsible village they’re calling the “Impossible City.”

Marielle Mondon is an editor and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia City Paper, Wild Magazine, and PolicyMic. She previously reported on communities in Northern Manhattan while earning an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.

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Tags: urban designseattlearchitecturehomelessness