By John Ramos

SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — A Santa Rosa artist has gone above and beyond when it comes to helping the homeless, designing and helping to build a group of miniature shelters for those in need.

Harold Wallin is a Santa Rosa designer who began comparing his notion of the “starving artist” to the growing population of homeless people.

“I just saw everyone out on the street, in tents, and being pushed around and I said, ‘What would be a step up from a tent that would give someone dignity?'” asked Wallin.

So he turned his creative efforts to developing a design for a tiny storage/living space for those on the streets.

The miniature houses have storage, windows and — perhaps most important — a lock on the door.

“You can sleep on it like this, but if you slide it this way, you have room to stand,” Wallin explained.

He presented his prototype to several homeless advocacy groups in the area. They raised funding and, with the help of an army of volunteers, Harold’s Utilitarian Transitional Shelter or HUTS was born.

Executive Director for the Sonoma County Homeless Task Force Heidi Prottas helped raise money for the project.

“I guess you’ve noticed. It’s been raining a lot and that’s not pretty when you’re sleeping on the sidewalk,” said Prottas.

They don’t know where yet, but the vision is to place all ten shelters together, with a porta potty and trash bin, on some willing persons property and hope the city will be willing to bend its zoning rules a bit.

“We won’t be surprised to have problems,” said Prottas. “You can think of everything you want to and then the reality is a whole ‘nother story!”

Most artists don’t deal in reality, but Wallin says just because homelessness isn’t painting a very pretty picture doesn’t mean it should be ignored.

“I think you’d have to have your eyes closed not to see it,” said Wallin.

The advocates said the city recently declared a state of emergency regarding homelessness, which could allow it to relax the laws regarding zoning and construction standards for the shelters.