homes made from shipping containers
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
August 17, 2021 ·  4 min read

Shipping containers used to build LA housing complex for the homeless

As of January 2020, the homeless population in Los Angeles increased to over 66,000 and still climbs higher. And with it, the demand for housing only grows, the faster the better. [1] So The People Concern, a homeless services agency, turned to shipping containers. They are cheap and quick to provide much-needed housing for people living on the streets. 

John Maceri, CEO of The People Concern, explained that social workers aid the residents of these homes, including how to pay rent, arrange transportation, and get health care. “That manager is a facilitator and connector to community resources so that people reintegrate back into the community.

Turning Shipping Containers Into Homes for the Homeless

For instance, John Kilgore and his children became a tenant in a 33-bed, three-story apartment complex made from shipping containers. The complex was a joint project by The People Concern and Flyaway Homes that began in 2017. It took less than a year to complete using no tax-payer money. They used about 48 shipping containers to create the nine units, according to Kevin Hirai, CEO of Flyaway Homes.

Flyaway Homes rendering
Image Credit: The People Concern

“There are a lot of people out there that need this type of housing opportunity,” Hirai said. “And we feel if we can clear the pathway and show how it can be done differently to provide housing, that’s our mission.”

He explained that these homes are built twice as fast using half the costs of regular complexes. But despite that, supportive housing could be just as permanent. “We come from a housing first model,” said licensed family therapist Heather Gibbs, who works with The People Concern. “So the primary needs need to be met which is a roof over your head, feeling safe, food, shelter, clothing. We want this to be a permanent solution, it’s not transitional, it’s not interim, it’s definitely permanent.”

Read: 10 Examples of ‘Anti-Homeless’ Hostile Architecture That You Probably Never Noticed Before

Changing Lives

Kilgore is a single father of five. The family had lived from other people’s floors to couches and back again. And for three years he couldn’t even be with his kids. He lost his home due to medical issues and a lack of jobs. “They knew that I was trying my hardest,” he said. “They didn’t give up on me and I wasn’t going to give up on my kids.”

Image Credit: The People Concern

But their life changed when The People Concern contacted them and approved them to move into the shipping container home. This included 800-square-feet, four bedrooms, and a bathroom.  “When I got those keys, I think it was the happiest moment for all of us,” Kilgore said. “Gave us a sense of being home, have something that we can call our own.”

And when the united family entered the new, the father saw the change in his kids. “When we walked in, man! Their faces lit up,” he said. “They were all smiles and so happy. And that made me happy.”  And in this home, Kilgore was able to recover from open-heart surgery, which was previously undoable. “You walk in here and you don’t see a shipping container, you see a home. I’m a fan because this takes a lot of pressure off, raising kids.” [2]

Flyaway Homes
Image Credit: The People Concern

Read: French Engineer Designs Minimalist Shelters That Retain Heat during Winter for The Homeless

Expanding Throughout Los Angeles

Flyaway Homes hope that their project could only expand to help more people in Los Angeles. “The HHH bond fund has recognized that there’s room for innovation and room for a pilot project along the lines of what we’re doing here,” Hirai said. “And so there’s a proposal out there now the mayor is considering to carve out 10 percent of that fund to make available for development in this type of product.[3]

By last year, the organization already had four more similar projects underway. The speed gained by using shipping containers is vital to keep up with the growing homeless community. As Hirai said, “We recognize a solution is building enough permanent supportive housing rapidly at an affordable cost in order to make a difference.” 

Plus, shipping containers are easily moved and stacked to fit them into different sizes. For that reason, many people are turning to them to build their own affordable homes. After all, the containers were once used for cargo but became too old to be useful — unless you want to build a home. Don’t think the containers make ugly, cold houses. These homes feel like traditional houses from the inside, with all of the colors, love, and coziness. Most importantly, with proper upkeep, they should last a lifetime. [4]

Keep Reading: Couple Turned Two Shipping Containers Into Beautiful Home In Less Than 10 Months


  1. “New Federal Report Shows Scope Of California’s Homeless Crisis, Over 160K Homeless Prior To Pandemic.CBS. March 19, 2021
  2. “Shipping containers in Los Angeles becoming homes for the homeless.CNN. Paul Vercammen. October 18, 2020
  3. “Shipping Containers Used as Homes for Los Angeles Housing Crisis.NBC. John Cádiz Klemack.December 20, 2018
  4. “People Are Turning Shipping Containers Into Tiny Homes. Here Are the Pros and Cons.” Time. Jasmine Suarez. March 31, 2021