US

Tiny houses employed to help tackle big homeless problem nationwide

  • In this Jan. 16, 2014 photo Betty Ybarra, 48, stands outside a tiny houses she and her boyfriend live in, in Madison, Wis. It is the first house built by OM Build, which wants to build nine houses in Madison for the homeless. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

    In this Jan. 16, 2014 photo Betty Ybarra, 48, stands outside a tiny houses she and her boyfriend live in, in Madison, Wis. It is the first house built by OM Build, which wants to build nine houses in Madison for the homeless. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)  (The Associated Press)

  • This Jan. 16, 2014 photo shows the inside of a tiny house that was built by OM Build in Madison, Wis. They want to built nine altogether and allow the homeless to live in them. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

    This Jan. 16, 2014 photo shows the inside of a tiny house that was built by OM Build in Madison, Wis. They want to built nine altogether and allow the homeless to live in them. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Jan. 16, 2014 photo, Harold "Hap" Morgan works in the OM Build workshop in Madison, Wis. He is in line to get one of the nine houses planned to be built by the group to help those without permanent homes. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

    In this Jan. 16, 2014 photo, Harold "Hap" Morgan works in the OM Build workshop in Madison, Wis. He is in line to get one of the nine houses planned to be built by the group to help those without permanent homes. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)  (The Associated Press)

While tiny houses have been attractive for those wanting to downsize for financial or environmental reasons, there's another population benefiting from the small-dwelling movement: the homeless.

There's a growing effort from advocates and religious groups to build these compact buildings because they are cheaper than a traditional large-scale shelter, help recipients socially because they are built in communal settings and are environmentally friendly.

Many have been built with donated materials and volunteer labor, sometimes from the people who will live in them. Most require residents to behave appropriately, avoid drugs and alcohol and help maintain the properties.

There are already established villages in Olympia, Wash., and Eugene and Portland, Ore., and efforts are underway to make similar communities in Madison, Wis., and near Austin, Texas, and Ithaca, N.Y.