SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – An old school bus was headed for the scrap heap, but a team of industrial tech students at San Jose State University are repurposing it into a tiny house for the homeless.
“You’ve got a really nice structure. It’s all pretty much ready to go,” said team leader Austin Allen. “You just got to tear out the seats. Space wise, you’re working with a big rectangle.”
The project had just launched last semester when its purpose really hit home. Students learned that one of the school’s own faculty members, English adjunct professor Ellen Tara James Penney, was herself homeless and living out of her car.
“It definitely motivates us,” Allen told KPIX 5.
The students met with her to design a place where she could live.
“We actually talked to her and her husband about their needs, specifically, what they would want to see,” Allen said. in a bus conversion.”
The bus itself has just under 100 square feet of floor space. And with the amenities the students are planning, it will be a tight fit. But it will have some of the comforts of home.”
“It will have plumbing, electricity, power to charge everything you need,” said team member Alexander Tam.
It will also have a kitchenette, a shower, toilet, sink and enough solar panels and batteries to operate off the grid.
“They are learning about life, responsibility toward the social environment,” said Dr. Fred Barez of the school’s Department of Aviation and Technology. “They are trying to come up with something to address the needs of people in Silicon Valley.”
Plans are not finalized for the professor to actually move into the bus when the project is completed.
But even if that doesn’t happen, the students hope to turn the project into a kit plan, to make it quick and easy to turn retired school buses into tiny homes and maybe put a small dent in the housing crisis.