When I first announced to some close friends that we would be moving our family of five into a tiny house, they sort of gave me a, ‘…but have you met your kids?!’ look. It is true that our children can be loud and theatrical, especially when company is over. However, the other reality is that our little family is very close and we love being around each other. Whenever something is going on inside our house, we are all piled into a small area discussing  ideas, crafting, or cuddled up reading a book. Because at the end of the day, its just nice to have a home at all.

When I was a child, my family fell into poverty, and that poverty quickly translated into homelessness. We lived in motels, supermarket parking lots, and eventually in a dilapidated house set for demolition. This experience growing up made me yearn for solutions, originally for my own family, but soon for other families as well. After a decade of working for sustainable solutions to address poverty and homelessness, I finally decided it was time for me to tell my own story.

In that constant search for ways to address homelessness, it seems like someone starts a discussion about tiny homes with me almost daily. I’ve seen everything from teardrop trailers pulled behind bicycles and traditional tiny homes sitting on large lots purchased by civic groups. Sometimes they are being organized and built by non-profits and other times it is a good spirited and ambitious nine year old. One element that remains consistent within all of these varying stories is the demographic that it addresses: the single chronic homeless population.

Even if all this talk about tiny homes as a solution translates into a national resolve to truly supply everyone with a dwelling, even in this amazing scenario… the childhood version of me would still be homeless, and my family would still be bouncing from one seedy motel to the next.

As I began to pen my experience and dredge up all of those painful memories, I realized I wanted to use this pain for something greater. I wanted to prove that this revolutionary idea of affordable and sustainable micro houses could be used for families as well. My wife and I decided that we would use the money we made from the sale of my book to create the perfect layout and design of a tiny house for families. We would then move into that home and prove that a family really can survive in close quarters. Finally, once our experiment was a success, we would provide all of the designs, layouts, and how-to material for free so that any individual or group would have the tools necessary to provide housing to families.

In the end, people may continue to look at me with a sideways glance when I tell them that we are moving (or have moved) into a tiny house, but I am alright with that. Because if there is one thing that I learned in my experience of living without a house as a child, it is that a home is not defined by size or floor plans, and certainly not by how much stuff you can shove into it. Home is family. Whether I slept in the van cuddled up with my little brother or in a different musty motel room each night: It was all home. That being said, the uncertainty of where home would be that night came with scars. It is for that reason, and a million others, that I know our family will be able to turn our little space into a home, and hopefully it will be a catalyst for creating homes for struggling families, so that other kids don’t have to live with the same uncertainty that I did as a child.

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Nathan Monk is a husband, father, author, and former Orthodox priest who writes about growing up in childhood homelessness, and brings awareness to the social and justice issues related to first world poverty.

1 Comment

  1. Really cool idea. We live in a McMansion and I can guarantee it caused BIG family problems. They do not get dealt with when everyone can run hide in their own space. I’m a believer and as I approach retirement I WILL be looking into how we might build and sponsor some hard working families on property that we own in an agriculture town in Central Florida. Kudos to you !!