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Most artists aspire to create masterpieces that can be admired and collected by the elite few, who can afford them - not Gregory Kloehn. He focuses on art that can be lived in, by people who have no homes to call their own. The best part is, that each structure is built from recycled materials that the artist finds inside dumpsters.
Gregory began his life as a sculptor. But he often felt that his sculptures that stayed in one place for years on end, lacked a meaningful purpose. Hence, after successfully constructing a five-unit live-work condominium complex from the ground up, he decided to channel his artistic energies into creating homes. However, they were not ordinary homes, but small structures built entirely from recycled materials - An idea he got by observing the innovative shelters created by the homeless in his neighborhood.
Over the years, he built numerous small, houses, bars and restaurants from recycled shipping containers and even transformed a dumpster into a luxurious 'home away from home' for his personal use in Red Hook, Brooklyn. But the thought of doing the same for the homeless, never occurred to him. That epiphany hit last year, when a homeless couple in search of a tarp, knocked at his door. While Gregory did not have a tarp, he did have a small wooden structure complete with a water tank, built-in kitchen, and even a small trap for waste disposal that he offered them. They were so grateful for his generosity that Gregory decided to build more for other people in similar situations.
Since embarking on the 'Homeless Homes Project' in 2013, the 43-year-old Denver, Colorado native who now lives in Oakland, California, has donated ten homes to the city's most needy. The brightly colored abodes that are the size of a regular sofa, are not fancy, but they do provide a safe pace for the homeless to sleep in. While they lack basic amenities like water and electricity, Gregory tries to make them as cozy as possible, by incorporating little luxuries like mirrors, cup holders, a small grill and even, a space for a pet carrier!
Prior to starting a new home, Gregory goes hunting for raw materials by digging through dumpsters in an industrial area of Oakland. Everything he finds is usable - Cargo pallets transform into foundations, refrigerator doors become house doors, while pizza delivery bags turn into insulators. Recycled washing machine doors often serve as windows, and the tops of minivans become sturdy roofs. Wheels at the bottom allow the homes to move around with their owners, while pitched roofs help make the shelters rain-proof. Gregory estimates that each mobile shelter which is built with a team of volunteers, costs between $30-$50 in screws, nails, glue, and the gas that he uses to search for materials.
Like any other project, Gregory has seen his fair share of challenges. The original house which inspired the whole movement was firebombed, while another, was stolen. One enterprising homeless recipient sold his home, which has since been converted to a dog house, for $80 USD. But those incidents are few and far between. Most are thrilled with their humble abodes. A woman named Wonder calls her new home, which is made from a discarded picnic table, the best one she has had in five years.
Gregory, who is currently experimenting with new designs - a chuck wagon and a geodesic home, hopes that others will join him in the effort and is even planning to hold weekend workshops to teach those that are interested, how to build the recycled structures.
Resources : odditycentral.com, mercurynews.com