The Smallest House in America: A Solution For The Homeless?
September 2003

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01-2150-0093 San Francisco, CA: Jim Reid claims that he has the answer to the homeless problem: build very tiny houses similar to the one he put together and claims to be the Smallest House in America.

To prove the viability of this project, Reid, a former contractor and candidate for San Francisco Mayor in 2003, has designed and built a 10-by-10-foot- (3x3 meters) little house that is large and comfortable enough for one homeless to live in it at a time.

He added an American flag and a white picket fence and named it “ShelterOne”. It is complete with bath, kitchenette, washer/dryer, closet and loft bed. The single bed is raised five feet above the floor with an upholstered armchair below. It has a desk and a chair and a space for a computer or a TV that can be installed above the bed either above or below. The house is fireproof, soundproof and earthquake safe.

Reid, 53, estimates that 70% of San Francisco’s population (more than 770,000 and the fourth-largest city in the state of California) cannot afford the “affordable” housing created and built by the city. He estimates the homeless population of San Francisco to 10,000 people, while the city provides them with shelters with only 2,000 beds.

What he suggests is to allow neighborhoods to engage in "spot zoning" -- that is, rezoning a single lot for the purposes of putting in high-density, truly affordable housing. He has formed a nonprofit construction corporation named “Habitat for the Homeless” dedicated to helping homeless people build decent housing for themselves and others.

The houses would be provided to homeless people in exchange for volunteer work in the neighborhood such as cleaning up litter, street sweeping, painting out graffiti, planting and watering trees, etc…. To qualify for the program, the homeless person would need to be clean, sober and able to perform construction work, manual labor or office work. War veterans and those who can prove long-term residency in San Francisco will get preference. An estimated 271,000 veterans in the US are believed to be homeless.

Reid thinks that spots could easily be found in parking lots, especially those of Churches-since they are used mostly on Sundays, under the freeways, in some of the large areas abandoned by the US military , etc…

His goal and mission is to train able-bodied homeless people to build housing for themselves and others. Within 5 years, he would like to build 2,000 ShelterOne housing units and provide 2,000 able-bodied clean and sober homeless people with food, clothing, shelter, and medical care in exchange for 24 hours of weekly volunteer work in their neighborhood. According to Reid, the material cost is around $9,000 per house. Labor would be free, as it would be provided by former homeless volunteer craftsmen trained by the program .

To convince that such a building project is feasible, Reid likes to refer to the 5,600 small homes that were built in just a few months after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, that provided a shelter to over 16,000 people who lost their homes in the disaster.

With the mayoral elections in San Francisco coming soon on Nov 4, 2003, Jim Reid hopes to become mayor and be able to achieve his goal and realize his dream. His website is

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