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How can we help the homeless?

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Greg Peck
August 29, 2013

Today's Gazette includes a column from Diane Nilan, president of HEAR US, a national advocacy organization for the homeless. Nilan intends to deliver her message to Congressman Paul Ryan's office in Janesville on Friday. She will encourage him to support the social safety net that helps homeless children and their families.

While I spent time Wednesday preparing that column for publication, I also came across an article in The Capital Times about the Occupy Madison movement to help the homeless in our capital city. Pat Schneider reports that the “OM Build” Tiny Homes initiative is catching on. As news spreads and a related video went viral, donors of time and money poured in, project organizer Bruce Walbaum told Schneider.

How tiny are these homes? Well, how about 98 square feet? By comparison, I'd guess that the typical ranch home in Janesville might stretch somewhere between 1,100 and 1,500 square feet.

The first Tiny Home will be placed on city streets and occupied by Chris Derrick and Betty Ybarra, Schneider reports. The thing is, the home is so small that Madison's current ordinance will require it to be moved every 48 hours. Local churches are getting behind the movement, and organizers hope Madison will change its zoning laws so the homes can be parked for longer periods on property owned by parishes or other groups while OM Build raises money to buy land for a permanent village of these homes.

It probably would be difficult for a family to raise kids in a home so small. Yet it's also difficult for homeless children to learn in school while living with their families in cheap motels, campgrounds, cars and abandoned buildings—as Nilan suggests many in Ryan's 1st Congressional District do now.

Do you think these Tiny Homes can be part of the solution to our homeless problem?

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.



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