By Phil Matier

OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Oakland City Councilman Abel Guillen said Monday that he would move into a tiny home for two days to underscore the homelessness crisis for local students. KPIX 5 got an inside look into the councilman’s stay.

Guillen, who moved into one of two tiny homes in the parking lot of the West Side Missionary Baptist Church at 732 Willow St. at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, said he previously secured an $80,000 city grant to fund “Pocket Houses,” the tiny home program for Laney College of Oakland.

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Guillen said, “One of the overlooked segments of the growing homeless population in the East Bay is young community-college students. This project puts a spotlight on them, and marks a practical, though small, step to address the problem.”

He described the program as an innovative city-college partnership that seeks to promote a new form of housing for homeless people. “We know that the regional homelessness crisis has escalated in the past couple of years,” Guillen said in a statement.

About one in seven Laney students are uncertain where they will sleep on a given night, and these students often keep the fact that they are homeless to themselves.

“I couch surf with some of my friends,” said Laney student Billy Caldwell.

“It’s hard waking up not knowing where you are going to live every day,” said Aquantay Morris.

“I think it’s just for pride. They don’t want people to know, ‘Oh, I’m homeless because I’m trying to pay for school,'” said Amanda Andrede.

The two tiny homes were built by Laney carpentry students and have found a home in the parking lot of West Side Missionary Baptist Church, thanks to the generosity of Rev. Ken Chambers and others who have helped make it a reality.

Rev. Chambers has agreed to a two-year test run of the tiny dorm on its property.

“We have ten students referred by Laney College– we are going to choose three out of those ten,” said Rev. Chambers.

“These tiny homes offer dignified housing for students who currently do not have a home. At the tiny home site, students will also receive individualized wrap-around support services as they move toward finding more permanent housing – and pursue their studies,” said Guillen.

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Laney’s Carpentry Department and FabLab designed the two tiny-house prototypes for mass production to help address the housing-affordability challenges that Oakland is facing, according to

Using a three-dimensional computer model, components of the tiny homes were designed and fabricated by students, and required minimal tools for rapid assembly.

Guillen said the homes are low-maintenance and are built with new materials available through local suppliers. “Built in Oakland for Oakland, this tiny house will be designed to fit Oakland’s unique needs and will showcase our city’s innovative maker culture,” FabLab Director Danny Beasly said.

Each built at an initial price of $70,000, one home could shelter up to three students.

Interior shot of the tiny home. The bed/loft area is on top and the bathroom and kitchen is below. (CBS)

The tiny homes range from 10 to 14 feet long, and include a bedroom with a sleeping loft in the small model, while the medium version will incorporate additional amenities of a shower, toilet and kitchenette.

Students are ready to live in the tiny homes, even if it’s going to be a tight fit.

“I mean, a home is a home. Can’t nothing be smaller than living in the back seat of an Audi,” said Laney student John McDonald.

Guillen said he hopes the city can secure additional support from private, non-profit sources to ramp up production and scale up tiny homes as a practical solution to help students facing housing insecurity and he’s also looking for future sites in Oakland to place more of the homes.

On Wednesday afternoon, four students were selected to move into two of the homes. Three will stay in the home Guillen stayed in and one more will stay in the second unit.


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