Bay Area Residents Recycle Super Bowl City To Build Homes For The Homeless

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For people sleeping on the streets, having no real shelter and trying to battle exposure to the elements, every night is a constant battle to survive. Many of these people can’t afford to wait months on end for a city to scout new shelter locations, vote on new laws, hire government officials, etc. So to prove that people don’t need to rely on the city to take care of us all the time, volunteers from various parts of the Bay Area came together to help their fellow neighbors by building homes for the homeless. This past weekend proved that there still is that sense of “Bay Area Love” still burning within it’s community.

Following the creative project originally started by Greg Kloehn, the event called, “Homeless Homes Pop Up Build” was organized by Vanessa Dzevdetbegovic to invite members of the community to join in building creative shelters for those in need. Nimby, a shared industrial co-working space in Oakland, opened their doors to the event and provided necessary working tools for the construction. Volunteers included families, children, friends and strangers with varying building expertise.

Greg didn’t originally start out with the goal to build homes for the homeless. In fact, he was just having fun scrounging together pieces to build fun creative structures, until Shiela, a local woman who’s been homeless for 20 years, approached him one day asking to borrow a tarp for shelter. He didn’t offer the tarp but instead provided her with a new miniature home he had previously built. ”Seeing all of the excitement and positive reception this has on people, I released we don’t have to wait for legislation and politicians to have an immediate impact,” said Greg. “For the homeless, their day isn’t ruined by traffic on the freeway, they have a much better perspective on the important things in life that many of us forget or take for granted.”

Edgar Nunez, a San Francisco resident and Bay Area native, is an interface designer for a tech startup and came out to lend a hand in building the homes. For him, “people in tech are always inspired to help solve global problems but it’s important to understand what’s affecting the smaller communities first, before you tackle on these abstract issues and there’s no better place to start than your own backyard.”

Most of the construction pieces that were used for the event were either donated or scrounged from local trash. Everything from loose 2×4’s, recycled refrigerators, half used floor boards, broken window frames and more, were recycled to create these unique homes. In fact, many of the larger pieces were derived from structures used during the construction of Super Bowl City. It’s a beautiful sense of poetic justice for citizens to build homes from materials from an ugly event, for the same people that the city kicked  them out for.

In just a two-day span, 9 new homes were built in total. The costs of these homes included the amount of a beautiful sunny afternoon in West Oakland, volunteer chefs grilling hot dogs, cold drinks, a chance to meet new friends and maybe even get a slight tan. For cost comparison, the Pier 80 shelter in San Francisco has 150 beds in an empty warehouse and if run at full capacity, (including case workers, shelter staff, and security) the average costs run the city $34,482.75 per night, as reported by The Chronicle.

With over 7,000 people facing starvation and homelessness in Oakland, how do they choose who actually gets these? Greg takes the time and meets the people he wants to help. More fortunate citizens unfortunately group together the homeless. They forget that these are still individual citizens of the community. Their names are Sheila, John or Bob and all have unique back stories and personalities. Greg makes a point to go out to meet these people in need, learn about them, make friends and see how these homes can impact their lives. He mostly focuses on many of the women in the homeless community who unforutnately fall pray to serious acts of victimization derived from living without a safe shelter at night.

No real blue prints were laid out in building these homes. Safety and reliability was the main focus, but also creativeness and usefulness. For myself and many others volunteering, it’s sometimes challenging to build a home for someone living on the streets when you yourself have actually never been there. Luckily, Sheila, one of Greg’s early home recipients, was there to provide guidance to builders, offering unique tips as to building hooks on the roof to tie down a tarps or the importance of shelving storage compared to standing room. These unique homes were all outfitted with windows, shelves, a waterproof roof, four walls, a locking front door and an emergency second door.

There are so many conversations around trying to rehabilitate criminals in a jail system that fails to foster positive rehabilitation of the human psyche. Well, how do you think it affects people being rounded up like cattle, their only tents being thrown away and forced to move into an empty warehouse? Wonderful events like these lessen the landfill, bring people together, provide immediate results for someone in need and further builds upon that sense of community everyone is constantly worried about losing.

Thoughts of making this a monthly event are in the works, so make sure to keep an eye out for future Facebook events. For those worried about the negative events that occurred recently in Los Angeles evicting the homeless from similar structures, you’ll be glad to know that the city of Oakland has reached out to the event organizers and are working with them to involve them in their community outreach programs.

To learn more about the wonderful work Greg does and the story behind these homes, check out the video below;



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David Sikorski

David Sikorski

San Francisco-based writer covering culture, music and everything this beautiful world has to offer. And yes, I am the guy that got engaged to a burrito.


  1. Cut-Rate Curmudgeon
    Charles Daly
    March 1, 2016 at 7:46 am

    Nice! Can’t help thinking of Bubble’s ‘shed and breakfast’ on Trailer Park Boys.

  2. Russell Justin Bartholow
    March 2, 2016 at 12:32 am

    I lived out there and like that for 15 years I had a lot of good times and built a lot of great places in one spot for two and a half years until Caltrans and the police came by and destroyed everything multiple times every three months they would hunt us all down year after year after year the same people, playing whack-a-mole with us and so as far as having places like that house I love one but as of right now they are confiscating them, arresting the people, issuing tickets, citations and refusing to give the house’s back and discarding/destroying them, them saying that they are abandoned property even though they were taken from the people who were standing there with it. Here in AmeriKa, s.F.p.are stalking these people in warrantless search and destroy missions violating and number of constitutional rights and amendments, illegal search and seizure illegally, of both person and possessions, and property, plus obstruction of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!

  3. Paula Tse
    March 2, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    I live on a residential side street to 13th/Division where the SFPD has just enforced tent removal and no loitering by putting up DPW fences on the sidewalks. The official reason for this is the camping created a violation of Public Health. I can tell you all from personally living next to this, a mere 100ft or so (guesstimation), that the problem was so much greater than public health.
    It’s great that a bunch of caring people are trying to help the homeless. But are they really helping? Really?
    I see these small dwellings as a conversation starter, and for that I am grateful, but that is where the overall benefit stops. These shelters are not really solving problems for the dwellers. As the previous commenter states they are still being removed and considered ‘abandoned property’ by SFPD. Let’s face it, these boxes are not legitimized dwellings. If the City of SF lets homeless residents reside anywhere where these can be even ‘semi-permanent’ it creates larger problems.
    First, is public health. Feces and urine, whether you’re homeless or not, on the sidewalk, in the gutters, in our gardens, is bad for everyone. So is heaps of trash, fire-starting generators, and remnants from last night’s binge just about everywhere in sight. Second, hazardous / dangerous activity. For the homeless who engage in anything criminal or not, this is effecting them and the residents of SF who live anywhere near these pop-up populations. It becomes an environment of ‘anything goes’, and decriminalization, although I agree with it, still does nothing to address the issues of larceny, battery, and harassment from the mentally ill and criminally savvy outdoor residents. Third, overall it becomes a haven that is accepted by the society of residents, law enforcement, and city officials. The acceptance dangerously sets a precedence that will affect the population at large for how to deal (or not deal) with this problem in the future.
    So good for you guys building these mini-homes, that’s very nice of you and very crafty. But it’s adolescent to think this is solving anything. Let’s get to the next step of legislators to actual provide housing for homeless people, where they can bring all their stuff to, do their drugs or not, poop in a toilet of their own, and join society in a way that doesn’t harm anyone.

    • Jennifer R.
      March 3, 2016 at 4:36 pm

      That’s all well and good, but we all know that such efforts will take years to effect. What do homeless people do in the mean time? Sleep in park benches?