Tiny Home Rebel: One Man’s Battle With the City of Los Angeles

Tiny Home Rebel: One Man’s Battle with the City of Los Angeles

SBS (2019)

Film Review

This Australian documentary is about Elvis Sommers’ battle with the city of Los Angeles to build free tiny houses on wheels for the city’s homeless.

Sommers, who volunteers his time, has a crowdfunding site to pay for the materials he needs to build tiny houses. In fact, he has a whole lot full of tiny houses the city forced his homeless clients to remove from Skid Row sidewalks and other homeless encampments. Fortunately he is also quite ingenious in finding public land in low traffic industrial areas, where city authorities are unlikely to notice his homeless friends in their tiny homes. Filmmakers follow him as he moves a pregnant homeless woman (who has just had her tarp and all her belongings confiscated by the city) into her new tiny house.

The Los Angeles city council opposes giving homeless people tiny houses to live in because they consider these dwellings a public threat. According to one city council member, tiny houses are dangerous because they might be used for “sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” According to the city director of sanitation, the real reason is they make it too difficulty to bulldoze homeless tents and belongings to hose down city sidewalks.

At present, the only location LA homeless can legally set up tents to store their belongings is on Skid Row. Elsewhere city regulations require a tent has to be down between 6 pm and 9 am (unless it’s raining), and it has to be at least ten feet from a driveway.

Skid Row currently has 2,000 homeless residents in tents. Every two weeks, they are given 12 hours notice to move their tents and belongings to allow sanitation workers to hose down the sidewalks. If they fail to move them, city bulldozers scoop up everything they own and take it to the landfill.

Officially LA has 12,000 shelter beds for 47,000 homeless residents.

Sommers finds it ironic that the city spends millions sanitizing sidewalks where homeless live instead of using the funds to provide them with emergency housing.