September 23, 2016

Can shipping container homes be a model for serving the homeless?

Here are three stories from communities around the U.S. that will inspire you

A California nonprofit hopes its newest homeless housing project built with shipping containers can be replicated across the country. Image courtesy of SVA Architects

Recycled housing: The Renewal Project regularly features innovative solutions to homelessness, from both city leaders and social entrepreneurs. This week we’re featuring a new project from a southern California nonprofit that president and CEO Donna Gallup believes can be replicated in communities across the country. American Family Housing, which provides housing and services for the homeless, is developing a 16-unit multifamily housing project that will serve homeless veterans—and it’s all made from shipping containers. But, said Gallup, it will feel like home. “We are not putting people in shipping containers,” Gallup told the Los Angeles Times. “We are putting them in housing—very energy-efficient, very structurally strong, very beautiful multifamily housing. It happens to be that the materials that will build that housing are shipping containers.” Potter’s Lane, designed by SVA Architects, is due to open in January in Orange County, California.

Gold stars: What better way to engage a community than to connect its generations, from ages 7 to 70. A Minnesota nonprofit that helps residents age well and engage in their community is doing just that through its Learning Buddies program. The program connects older, mostly retired, adults with elementary school classrooms in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. It benefits teachers by providing more one-on-one opportunities with students, and the volunteers by keeping them active in their communities. “Time is so beneficial for a teacher. There is a lot to do, and every little bit of help allows us to do so much more,” teacher Michele Griffin told She added: “Students need positive role models.” Local businesses help fund the program and DARTS, the nonprofit that runs the program, provides transportation for the volunteers who don’t drive.

The young and the independent: According to a new survey, Millennials believe entrepreneurship is important for innovation and economic growth, but they are also on track to be the least entrepreneurial generation in recent memory. The survey, from the Economic Innovation Group and Ernst & Young, reached 1,200 18- to 34-year-olds across the country. Seventy two percent of the respondents agree that startups and entrepreneurship are essential for the U.S. economy. But, according to the organizations’ results, only 4 percent of those who are 30 years old identified themselves as self-employed. For Generation Xers at the same age, 5.4 percent identified that way, and for Baby Boomers, 6.7 percent. Another key takeaway from the data, Millennials are more likely to identify as politically independent: 47 percent consider themselves independent, while 14 percent identified as a Republican, and 27 percent as a Democrat.

See a story that inspires you? Send it to The Renewal Project editor Margaret Myers at

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers