Organizations: Mad Housers
The Mad Housers provide basic emergency structures to give homeless individuals safety, security and privacy.
“You don’t have to be a skilled carpenter or construction worker to build one of our shelters,” says Tracy Woodard, the Atlanta nonprofit’s client outreach officer, noting that blueprints are available free of charge online.
The plywood huts typically take just one day to build, and they can be disassembled in a couple of hours. Each has a small stove for heat and cooking, a pipe chimney and a lock on the door.
“We’re intended to be a stepping stone to transitional housing,” Woodard says. “The idea is to give the person some measure of stability, which then makes it easier for them to pursue other resources.”
The group, which operates on donations and gets most of its referrals by word of mouth, started in the Georgia Tech School of Architecture in the 1980s. Woodard and her husband, Nick Hess, took over in 1999, and they since have built hundreds of the shelters, averaging around 15 per year, generally at sites where homeless people are camping already.
“Most of our clients are older men, and many have a job pushing a mop or washing dishes,” she says. “They have their pride. We’re unique in that we go to them where they are sleeping, and we don’t have any barriers that keep them from qualifying. They don’t have to get sober or have a clean criminal record.”
If a client moves into transitional housing, the shelter is then repurposed for someone else. “They’re not fancy, but they keep out the insects and afford them some dignity,” Woodard says.