A company in Orange County, California says it may have a solution to quickly and safely shelter the local homeless population—without shelling out too much cash.
Newport Beach City Councilman Marshall “Duffy” Duffield has been building battery-operated fiberglass boats for 50 years. Now he’s created small, portable fiberglass homes called SafeHuts, and he’s teamed up with David Ellis, owner of Delta Partners, to spread the word.
“[It’s] a micro homeless shelter made of fiberglass, and the reason that’s important is fiberglass is indestructible. It’s stronger than steel,” said Ellis, SafeHuts’ director of business development, to The Epoch Times.
The homes come in two sizes, 60 square feet or 80 square feet, with either a single or a double vinyl mattress on a folding bed. The company is also developing a larger 120 square foot size home with four beds.
They’re waterproof, insulated, and windows are included. Made of six fiberglass panels that can be assembled or disassembled with ease, they are also simple to clean and sanitize, which is especially important during the pandemic. Heating, air conditioning, or other amenities could be added.
The product launched about six weeks ago, and already the company has met with county supervisors in Orange and San Bernardino counties. They’re planning to go to Los Angeles next.
While some recent housing built in Los Angeles for the homeless has cost nearly $700,000 per apartment, SafeHuts only cost $17,000 for the small size and $23,000 for the larger.
“What we’re proposing is not a permanent solution. It’s a temporary solution. It happens to be a temporary solution that has a 50-year life span, though. So we think we have an economically more attractive solution to communities,” said Ellis.
According to the most recent data, Orange County has nearly 7,000 homeless individuals, while Los Angeles County has more than 66,400, a nearly 13 percent increase from the previous year. California as a whole has around 150,000 homeless people, more than any other state.
In 2019, the Ninth Circuit court upheld a ruling in the case Martin v. City of Boise that found that it is unconstitutional to ban people from sleeping in public places. If local governments wished to remove people from the streets, they would have to provide the homeless people with shelter.
SafeHuts could provide temporary shelter to homeless people in small villages at a fraction of the cost of an apartment building, leaving more public funding available for mental health treatment, said Ellis.
“These are people who are in trouble, people who need help, and I think that the political will of our state is there to help them, but it’s a challenging issue,” he said.
Duffield himself has a homeless family member with a mental health condition, “so he is very compassionate and understands that if we don’t get the proper funding into the mental health aspect of homelessness, it’s just, the cycle perpetuates itself,” said Ellis.
The homes are made in the Duffy Electric Boat Company factory in Adelanto, California, the biggest manufacturer of fiberglass electric boats in the world.