A beautiful new village for people dealing with homelessness has popped up beneath a bridge in West Oakland

Originally published at: A beautiful new village for people dealing with homelessness has popped up beneath a bridge in West Oakland | Boing Boing


And so it begins.


I wish there was a little more information on whether CalTrans is actually going to try to tear it down. Everything I can find says that it’s heavily rumored that they’re going to come bulldoze it this month, yet the official line from CalTrans seems to be “we have no plans to remove it… yet.” I would hope that the obvious benefits both to the homeless and the city would outweigh the fact that it’s illegal, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if cruelty wins out yet again.


I know that area. I was homeless there.
The soil they used for their cob… IS TOXIC!
Well intentioned, but idiots!


It turns out even foul cob when laminated with wood and paint like this is fairly harmless. Compared to the air pollution there. So long as it remains dry and coated. Also maybe consider the filth of a sleeping bag on a sidewalk? Hardly free of toxins most anywhere you look at closely enough.

Cob is a wonderful building material for many reasons. Fire, heat, and cold resistant material. Available even people with zero cash can grab some pallets and sketchy mud can enjoy shelter. Very little cost to the environment. Proven by our ancestors for centuries the world over.

I fully dig this scene myself.


I see things like this, and I wonder if communalism may be a solution for this segment of society?

Hippy-type communes can be very successful, or even less hippy-type (like the Hutterites).

It seems like the key to keeping such a society going is keeping everyone ideologically aligned so that everyone contributes, and nobody tries to cheat to get more than their fair share. Communes usually accomplish that by being insular communities, with barriers to entry (or consequences of exiting).

Maybe a commune type arrangement is what this is trending towards. It has that feel. If it turns out to have staying power, I wish them the best of luck in repeating this in other cities.

And for the record, that village is indeed beautiful. The common buildings they are making would rent out for hundreds a night for glampers.


This topic is temporarily closed for at least 4 hours due to a large number of community flags.

This topic was automatically opened after 4 hours.

Whatever issues there may or may not be withe soil, I hope that the builders of future tiny house villages* take a look at this bottom-up organic project and incorporate aspects of the services and aesthetic design.

[* I am more and more convinced that, done properly, these are the best Housing First solutions.]


Me, too.
And, straw is more expensive, but I love what Bill and Athena at the Canelo Project do. One example (I was remembering something from earlier, so they’ve done similar multiple times):

@WoolyBugger - it’s not quite a commune, but commensalism, so thought you might like it, too.


The new apartment I’m living in here in Tijuana is large styrofoam panels covered in hand-applied concrete. Super inexpensive, and great protection from the heat.


Oh yeah, the previous living arrangements were way less toxic.


From an energy standpoint, that stuff is great. I just wish we had less toxic products, or at least feasible ways to reuse the styrofoam, since it’s going to be around for a looooooong time. They’re doing some cool stuff at the U of Maine with wood-based “plastics” that seems promising, so maybe within our lifetime.
I love the natural building stuff (cob, strawbale, light-clay, adobe etc) because it’s more labor intensive, but can last a long time if done right, is essentially fire proof, and can be composted at the end with no harm. Cob, especially, is a really nice option for people with lots of time but little money.


Two problems here, one chemical and one legal.
I can imagine the soil is not exactly pristine, but if all that crap is sequestered in the cob walls then the situation may be not so dire. I wonder about the air tho, in my (limited) experience pollution under overpasses is heavy and readily detectable just by nose, unless the road is really high up and there’s a lot of wind. I hope that’s the case.
Then there’s the legal problem. I really really hope they are not going to be evicted, but I feel not many administrations can stomach the appearance of this kind of spontaneous self-governing community. Any acceptance will be denounced as “abandonement of authority”, “infringement of sovereignty” or what have you, with the usual consequences.
But I do hope I am completely wrong and that a new and perfect city is going to be born.



Just to clarify, since it seems some commenters might not have watched the video: people are not living in these structures. The structures are community buildings: a kitchen, a health clinic, a free-store. Residents of the unhoused community nearby can use these facilities, but they aren’t in those walls all day, every day.


Housing First is makes sense, the math and the data are mixed but in the long run, any culture truly interested in addressing the issues of the unhoused should just freaking go for it.


(disclosure: our fam has done volunteer work for Mobile Loaves and Fishes)

And… Housing First Nations people in need… I met some of the Red Feather crew years ago, and I love their commitment and their work, which, while it’s strawbale building, not cob, is all in the category of natural building:

The natural building movement does pitch in with its own efforts to address housing issues and the unhoused… unfortunately, I think their official Builders Without Borders (dot Org) web site is down right now.

Amazing people, doing amazing work, despite some major tragedies in their lives. I am a fan as well.

Have been tangentially and directly involved in various natural building projects for decades.

This is a huge big deal and makes sense especially during pandemics.

It’s very hard to stay clean, make food, and stay healthy when sleeping rough.


And just who is paying taxes on this land? The city won’t put up with this if they don’t get there cut.

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I’m sorry to hear that. I haven’t stayed in touch since I moved (so about 10 years). :cry:


Another heartwarming tale of tiny victories against a failed societal system. File alongside “Area man crowdfunded his mother’s hip replacement is just 2 months!”

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It’s great… Until the lawyers show up when people get sick.

Who pays THAT bill? Who pays for encouraging people to live in a toxic dump?

Granted, it shouldn’t BE toxic, but it is and for the sake of kewl, they’re encouraged to live in it.

Think people. That’s what that knob on your shoulders is supposed to do.