tiny home for homeless
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
February 13, 2024 ·  5 min read

Homeless People Can Now Move Into $15K Tiny Homes

Homelessness is a growing issue that requires an efficient solution. Shelters are no longer as helpful as once believed. Case in point, they often include long waitlists or curfews that may not fit an individual’s schedule. There are also shelters that do not serve women with children, those with pets, or anyone working a night shift. Plus, incidents of threats, violence, harassment and discrimination are not uncommon. Therefore, many people choose the streets over a shelter. [1] Even so, people have other needs besides a bed that must be met. And creating a community of tiny homes may be the better solution.

Homeless People Can Move into Private Tiny Homes

The homeless population in San Francisco can now move into a village of 64-square-foot tiny homes, each costing only $15,000 to make. The first 30 units opened up downtown between Market and Mission streets, with 40 more on the way. So far, people are eager to try out the new living space.

While shelters evict the residents after one night, these tiny homes temporarily belong to the residents. Their room is their own, including a lockable door, a bed, a desk, a window, and heating. Also, there are communal bathrooms, dining rooms, clinics, a computer lab, and offices to meet with caseworkers. Nonprofit Urban Alchemy provides on-site services. Overall, it costs about $30,000 per person to run the village, making it more economic than some shelters. [2]

$15k tiny home for homeless
Image Credit: Dignitymoves

Everybody sleeping in a tent was given the option that they could stay in a tent, albeit not in this location, they could get placed into a group shelter, or they could have one of these rooms,” said Elizabeth Funk, the founder and executive chairman of the nonprofit Dignity Moves, one of the groups who partnered to create the village. “One hundred percent have said, ‘Are you kidding me? I’m definitely moving in.’[3]

The units are more like private dorms as opposed to shelters. The tiny homes were erected on an underdeveloped land that could be moved to another location when the landowner wants the property returned. Currently, the village is on land owned by a private developer working on a low-income housing project. But until the owner receives their real-estate entitlements, the city of San Francisco leases the property. 

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

A Better Alternative to Shelters

These tiny home villages already exist in Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Montana, and Boseman. Many projects to help the homeless tend to be temporary solutions, such as shelters providing a bed for one night. However, these tiny homes answer the root of the problem. They can provide people struggling with homelessness to get back on their feet.

We have to be very careful to say this is not an alternative to permanent housing,” Funk said. “A lot of people who are very flustered are saying, ‘The city is just going to do this and not build permanent housing.’ That’s not an option. That’s not what these are for. This is an alternative to group shelters, especially for people who have gone through trauma, don’t want to be in a group room, and would rather be in their tent to have some privacy.” 

welcome basket for the new residence of the tiny homes for homeless in San Francisco
Image Credit: Dignitymoves

Funke has worked as an impact investor for 18 years, more recently working on poverty alleviation and low-income housing in Latin America. But when the pandemic struck, she set her sights on an issue closer to home. She learned that permanent affordable housing is not constructed fast enough to help all of the homeless people on waiting lists, leaving them in a shelter or encampment.

You go to an encampment and offer somebody a room in a group shelter and you’re lucky if one out of ten will take it,” Funk said. “It started to occur to me: Maybe we’re selling a product nobody wants.” 

Read: Nonprofit Organization Built Homeless Veterans Village of Tiny Homes Instead Of Leaving Them Homeless

Creating Homes, Creating Futures

Therefore, the tiny home village is more private and personalized. For instance, one resident is 45-year-old Ryan Bauer who has been homeless for 30 years since he left Illinois when she was 17. “It’s definitely a lot warmer, and I don’t have to worry about my stuff being taken,” said Bauer, who is known on the street as “Nobody.” “I haven’t had a locked area where I could leave my stuff and not have it stolen for who knows how long.” [4]

Volunteers had decorated the rooms for the first set of residents with throw pillows, blankets, artwork, and welcome baskets. “A lot of the residents have been incarcerated where everything is exactly the same, so they really appreciate the individual touch,” Funk said.

Every individual on the street who had been offered a room accepted it.

“They said, ‘Are you kidding me?’” said Everett Butler, co-director of Urban Alchemy. “They were beyond appreciative to be able to go inside their own space and lock the door behind them, turn the heaters on and kick back.”

These tiny homes are intended to be a stopover where people can find jobs, permanent housing, medical care, and whatever else they need to get back on their feet. With a roof over their head and a lock on their door, they can finally switch gears from basic survival to creating a better future for themselves. And if this village is successful, it’s likely the city will develop more. 

Keep Reaidng: Shipping containers used to build LA housing complex for the homeless


  1. “This Is Why Homeless People Don’t Go to Shelters.Vice. Rick Paulas. February 24, 2020
  2. “San Francisco debuted its first 70-unit prefab tiny home village to help solve the city’s homelessness crisis— see inside the structures.” Business Insider. Brittany Chang. March 18, 2022
  3. “Homeless People Can Now Move Into $15K Tiny Homes in San Francisco.”  Vice. Emma Ockerman. March 17, 2022
  4. “San Francisco’s first tiny home village for homeless people opens. At $15,000 a pop, city says it’s cost-effective.” San Francisco Chronicle. Sam Whiting. March 8, 2022