Little Homes e. V. is an organization that constructs compact, movable dwellings and provides them to individuals experiencing homelessness. Thus far, they have successfully constructed approximately 248 of these portable shelters. Additionally, 148 previous occupants have been able to transition into permanent housing thanks to this initiative. Receiving one of these small houses has proven to be a pivotal moment for these individuals, as it restores their sense of security, tranquility, and optimism. However, some skeptics view this as merely a temporary fix and express concerns regarding the minimum standards of these accommodations.

The available space is limited. The living area, measuring 3.5 square meters, is sufficient for a bed, a shelf, and a small kitchenette. Despite its small size, Uwe S. finds contentment in it as it represents security, tranquility, and newfound hope. Uwe had been homeless for 15 years, sleeping on the streets of Berlin until Sven Lüdecke provided him with a “Little Home”. Uwe resided in it for two years, and during that time, he managed to regain a proper apartment with access to electricity and running water, becoming self-sufficient once again. The provision of the “Little Home” marked a significant turning point in his life.

“Tiny Dwellings”: Compact residences for individuals without permanent housing.

Sven Lüdecke is the founder of the association “Little Homes e. V.Since the conclusion of 2016, he, along with a team of ever-changing volunteers, has been constructing compact dwellings and providing them to individuals without homes. In Germany, specifically in Nuremberg, Cologne, and Berlin, there are currently 248 of these modest shelters. These structures serve as a means for many to reintegrate into society, as evidenced by 148 previous occupants who have successfully transitioned into permanent housing.

The houses are constructed in a simple manner: They consist of four walls made of pressboard, a door that can be locked, and a small window. Additionally, they are equipped with a mattress, a camping toilet, a fire extinguisher, and a first aid kit. There is no access to electricity, running water, or heating, but they are insulated with Styrofoam to provide protection against extreme cold. Typically, residents obtain their own water from sources such as public toilets or drinking water stations. The cost of a “Little Home” is approximately 1,000 euros.

The houses have the ability to move as they are equipped with wheels. If this were not the situation, the association would be required to obtain a building permit for every Little Home.

The majority of the residences are situated within private parking areas, however, the association collaborates with urban areas, districts, and local governments. As an illustration, the Kreuzberg district in Berlin offers 40 designated parking spots.

Foto: Little Home e.v.
The houses are movable – they are equipped with wheels and can be transported to various places. (Photo: Little Home e.v.)

Criticism: The “Little Homes” do not meet the minimum standard of accommodation

Critics argue against Lüdecke’s project, claiming that it overlooks basic housing standards. They believe that the small living area is inhumane and not a viable long-term solution.

Werena Rosenke of the association “Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Wohnungslosenhilfe” also takes a critical view of the project. She told Deutschlandfunk that “Little Homes” are not safe. They are often located in remote places. This is dangerous, especially for women. Nevertheless, she thinks it is a good idea to give homeless people some security and get them off the streets for a short time. The goal should be a real flat with a social worker to look after them.

Tiny houses for homeless people: No solution – but a temporary fix

Lüdecke sees it that way, too. He also does not see his project as a solution to the problem of homelessness. That is the task of politicians. The “Little Homes” are only a temporary solution, he says: 

Sven Lüdecke, the founder of Little Homes, states that we are not the ultimate solution to homelessness, but rather a preliminary solution before the ultimate one.interview).

There are now regional offshoots of the association in many cities. The simple construction of the Little Homes makes it possible. In the beginning, it was just a matter of building a reasonably safe shelter for homeless people. In the meantime, the association also helps with visits to the authorities, with applications for social benefits or with the search for a job. For this purpose, the association hires social workers or works together with them.

Foto: Little Home e.v.
Critics caution that the compact dwellings fail to meet the basic requirements for shelter and may also result in communities dedicating fewer resources to assist the homeless. (Photo: Little Home e.v.)

Risks: Municipalities neglect their legal duty to help homeless people

In Germany, municipalities are legally obligated to help homeless people. They must provide humane housing for those affected. Rosenke emphasizes that this is a unique selling point that must not be jeopardized under any circumstances. 

While the concept of “Little Homes” is commendable, it may result in municipalities neglecting their responsibility, as it effectively addresses the issue of homelessness.

This concern is not entirely unfounded. You can see this, for example, in the example of the food banks. Food banks give donated food to people with low incomes. The problem is that the state relies too much on the aid and remains inactive itself. The symptoms of poverty are alleviated, but the causes remain. Inflation, poverty in old age and precarious working conditions in the low-wage sector are not being addressed, according to the fears of critics.

The number of homeless individuals is increasing in the European Union, including Germany and Austria.

According to a reportthe German government, there is an estimated population of 263,000 individuals experiencing homelessness in Germany.Amnesty InternationalIn Austria, there are slightly less than 20,000 individuals, while the European Union is home to over 700,000 people.

The amount of unreported cases is probably significantly greater, as numerous individuals impacted are not documented within the system. These individuals remain unseen as they lack registration, social insurance, or reside with friends and acquaintances.

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