In Brittany, homeless people can volunteer to build a mini-house they hope to occupy when it’s complete.
Homeless people are building mini-houses they hope to live in
"Freedom!" exclaims Pascal as he proudly shakes the keys of his brand new compact "tiny house" on wheels. And what sweetens the moment is that he has helped build the mobile home himself.
Homeownership was perhaps not on the cards for the unemployed 52-year old, until he began working with AMISEP, a social outreach organisation that offers training to adults in Brittany, France.
"The specificity of the project developed by AMISEP is to build mobile homes with homeless people, and ensure that the future inhabitants of these mobile homes are involved in the whole construction phase," Simon Robitaille, who is heading up the project at the organisation, explained.
Moreover, Robitaille says the project can respond to a demand in the area for smaller-scale housing units.
"In the Gulf of Morbihan, we have a lot of difficulties finding small housing at contained rates for people who are on social minima, who work on temporary contracts, part-time, things like that," he said.
The Project has a social dimension
The project is designed to offer people in precarious positions such as asylum seekers, homeless people, or people in unemployment the opportunity to own homes and also gain practical experience in construction.
"I try to evaluate each person to see a few of their skills and where they feel most comfortable," Bastien Gohier, the technical director of the project, said. "I try to divide the tasks according to each person’s abilities," he added.
For the participants, it’s not only the lucky chance to own their own mobile home drawing them in, but also the social dimension of the project.
"It’s important because I don’t have much to do. I come here to keep myself busy and it does me good," said Malian asylum seeker and project participant, Mahono Coulibaly.
Build your house to get off the street!
In Séné, in the Gulf of Morbihan, homeless people handle the disc machine and hammer, with the help of social educators, to build "tiny houses", with the possibility of then living in one of these eco-friendly mini-housing.
Pascal, 52, will now live in a "tiny" that he himself has partly arranged. "It’s perfect. I have already lived in a caravan. Here it’s better," he says, unveiling his new "house" of about twenty m2, with shower, toilet, kitchen, mezzanine and folding table, where you can smell the scents of beech wood. "This is a total change. Here, we are freer (than in a building), we go outside right away."
At the origin of this initiative, a call for projects from the Interministerial Delegation for Accommodation and Access to Housing (Dihal) at the end of 2020.
The objective is to offer "a form of housing for people who are very de-socialised and in great marginality," explains Simon Robitaille, who is leading the "tiny" project at Amisep, a Breton association fighting precariousness. "The idea was to combine housing and an on-site activity. We started on this original idea of self-construction of tiny houses."
A house for €25,000
Not far from the racecourse and facing a row of houses with well-cut hedges, a handful of men are active under the hangar belonging to the Amisep. Monday to Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., they can come and volunteer to build a tiny, with the goal of building eight in three years.
The setting is deliberately flexible and welcoming, with meals offered at lunch. "Some are there every day while others arrive all fire and do not return. It is a device that must make it possible to welcome people who do not find their place anywhere," recalls Simon Robitaille.
The “tiny”, already well advanced, should be habitable at the beginning of July, after four months of work, at a cost of around €25,000.
An invoice defying all competition in a popular region where "land is in tension," notes Frédéric Le Poul, director of the precariousness pole at Amisep. "It is both a construction but also a reconstruction for them," he analyses. So some, excited by these adorable little mobile homes, have regained the desire to get up.
"I had a difficult phase and an addiction… The tiny allowed me to get back in the bath physically and mentally, "says Benoit, who even obtained an integration contract. Alister, a face marked by the trials of life, feels comfortable in this atmosphere. "I prefer to be here and participate in this project and it makes me schedule. Meanwhile, I don’t do any nonsense… Otherwise I would be in Vannes zoning,” he admits.
Certainly, others did not want to invest in the project, reluctant to work voluntarily and without having the assurance of occupying the "tiny". Because the choice of the lucky tenant, who will have to pay a modest financial contribution, will ultimately be made by the Integrated Reception and Guidance Service (SIAO) of Vannes.
Sine qua non conditions: must have participated in the construction site and not find a "classic" accommodation solution.
Benoit is already contemplating it with envy and will make a request to occupy it. "Because I like her, she has a little wild cabin side, I hope one of the eight will be for me!" he says, stressing that this type of habitat corresponded to the profile of people like him.
5 WAYS TO HELP THE HOMELESS (WITH PICTURES)
There are lots of other ways to help homeless people. Donating food and clothing to homeless shelters is a great way to help. You could also volunteer your time with such an organisation. Educate yourself and others about homelessness and share facts about homelessness with others. Use letters to your local newspaper, blog posts, and social media to spread the word about how homelessness is a problem and what others can do to help. Click for 5 ways to help the homeless.