Reinette Senum on Nevada County’s Gorilla Love Project

Editor’s Note: I found out about this from a Ben Emery post on Facebook. Thanks Ben, Reinette and all the other supporters of this very creative effort to help the homeless in our county.

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12 Responses to “Reinette Senum on Nevada County’s Gorilla Love Project”
  1. 290 good to excellent photos of the project are posted at:

    Happy drilling today, everyone!

  2. depelton says:

    Thanks Doug! Beautiful work!

  3. depelton says:

    See also Steve Enos’ very critical comments on this project here.


    Why no discussion about the negative reality and impacts of this? Is it OK to discuss the impacts and the legal issues?

    The shelters will be provided “wherever the homeless land”…

    So would that be for the transients that refuse to use HH and continue to tresspass onto private property and set up illigal transient camps, without owners permisison, without sanitation at the illiigal camps, where they turn the land into trash heaps, where a lot of crime takes place? Most these folks spend their days doing what???

  4. depelton says:

    Sacramento News 10 Report:|tvideo|article#/Recent+Videos/Grass+Valley+volunteers+build+microhomes+for+homeless/52821470001/52747302001/966583913001

  5. Anna Haynes says:

    It will be fascinating to see how all this plays out; esp. since the project is being done in such an audacious – as in, not according to business project standards & practices, or community land use standards&practices – manner.

    On the construction project:

    What’s being put up at stake here, isn’t a business’s (or individual’s) resources; it’s the resources of the community (albeit voluntarily) – which is a minus, since there’s less incentive to take steps to avoid failure, since the cost of failure would be borne largely by others. Yet this also means the community has an add’l stake in the project’s success (in not wasting efforts/resources put in so far), so has an add’l incentive to continue contributing, when the project needs more resources/time than originally proposed – which is a plus of sorts. And the project, if successful, builds community capital (in cohesiveness/experience working together, in reputation, in having a new housing inventory) – a definite plus.

    Will they all be completed? when my drill finally gave out & I left at a quarter to 4 on Sunday, none were near finished; though I’m told that work has continued since then and some have been completed.

    Will they all be wanted? the # under construction roughly matches the HH headcount, but of the 3 HH users I asked about the minihouses, 2 didn’t find the idea suitable. But there seem to be 3 categories of homeless – HH users, couchsurfers at friends’, and campers (including folk for whom HH’s rules are too onerous); and these minihouses are more suited to campers.

    On the social project:

    Once complete (& if all are wanted) the minihouses’ very existence becomes a force toward creation of a Dignity Village (as has been floated on their website, How well does a Dignity Village work?
    (which may be equivalent to asking, what would Hospitality House become, without staff & monitors & no-alcohol policy? it’s hard to control what people do within their own 4 walls…)

    Or maybe a D.V. comes with these rules&staff? In which case, would the campers still want it?
    And would HH users want it? (Come rainy season, HH users aren’t likely to) – given that once HH has a home (or rather, has it fixed up; rumor sez they’ve found one) it’ll presumably (I expect) be year ’round?

    Overall – is a D.V. a less desirable alternative to HH for rule-abiding folk, and if so, will it (as Enos fears) become slum quarters forthwith?

    On the mini-house:

    Not sure who designed the house (this person should be getting credit…) or who was solicited to give feedback on its design, esp. intended users. (e.g. on Sunday I did hear someone say that interior screws were being used on the exterior, & it doesn’t look designed to be secure from malevolent humans.)

    But the one guy I talked to who’ll be using one is enthusiastic. He made some interesting points –
    1) avoid clustering them; clusters create conflict, which brings more trouble
    2) the goal is to keep a low profile, in the woods – the brightly colored name on the end is counterproductive
    3) plan on putting them up on pallets, to keep them out of the mud.

    and I’d suggest
    4) Take off the plywood wheels once the building is situated, since they’re not likely to last in the woods. (at which pt the axle is also unneeded, I guess; so maybe we didn’t need 1 set per minihouse? they’ll be like the headrests on the back seat of a vehicle, removed & then either in the way or lost.)

    Related reading:

    In case anyone missed it, a competition to design a $300 house for families of the world, from The Economist: A $300 idea that is priceless (link)

    In NYTimes, The $200 Microhouse – wonderful writing, about the reporter being invited to try out various minihouses by their builder, growing successively more hypothermic…
    (“For ingenuity, thrift and charm, Mr. Diedricksen’s tiny structures are hard to beat….a porthole-like window salvaged from a front-loading washing machine…Still, the structures are neither warm nor commodious, and the reporter’s note-taking is hampered by blowing on her hands.”)

  6. Anna Haynes says:

    I said
    > interior screws were being used on the exterior

    But come to think of it, this may be misleading – there were 2 kinds of screws in use, & the longer ones were indeed brass (or at least golden, & not interior-looking); so it’s only if people were screwing on the battens &/or cleats (using the dark short screws) from the batten side not the OSB-side, that interior screwheads will be exposed & will rust.

  7. Anna Haynes says:

    Just a note re HH folk, and what they’ll be doing when HH closes its [overnight] doors after tonight – a longtime volunteer told me that most of these folk *do* have income, albeit too low to pay for lodging & food year-round; so with the money they’ve saved they can pay for lodging in summer.
    (this is pure hearsay, & seems a little surprising, since I’d expect the folk that don’t save to be the ones most likely to become homeless)

  8. RL Crabb says:

    After reading the comments here and on the Sierra Foothill Report, I can see there is no consensus on the homeless front. These one room rickshaws may make it easier to stay dry and off the ground, but does little to address the big picture. It seems to me that the first thing the homeless need is to re-establish their sense of self-worth. As someone who has been homeless and suffered through periods of deep depression, I can tell you that’s the biggest hurdle to overcome.

    The homeless are a wasted resource. There is plenty of work out there, and at least some monies from charity and government to start a work program. (FDR did it with the Conservation Corp.) Why not organize those who are physically able into crews that could tackle jobs like clearing defensible space?

    Having a job and a few dollars in your pocket does wonders for self esteem.

  9. depelton says:

    Anna, thanks for the interesting first-hand reporting on this.

    ” … when my drill finally gave out & I left at a quarter to 4 on Sunday, none were near finished; though I’m told that work has continued since then and some have been completed.”

    And thanks too for walking your talk!

  10. depelton says:

    Amen, Bob. I completely agree on the importance of a works program.

    If we had put into such a program a fraction of the money we’ve spent on keeping zombie banks ambulatory, there might be a greater faith in the fairness of government, and a glimmer of populist joy out there, along with all the populist anger.


  11. Reinette Senum says:

    Bob and Don,

    I actually initiated a 6 week jobs program for the homeless (modeled after a Nevada County Fire Safe Program) to teach vegetation and forest management. Then, with more research, discovered that for the 60 training positions I was seeking funding for, the homeless, only about 5 would ever be filled. That’s right, only about 5 would have the capacity to do this job training out of the hundreds out there.

    I have learned in just the last few months that if a person does not have their basics met, food and shelter, they can’t even think ‘job.’ They are in survival mode and it takes everything they have to just keep themselves sheltered and fed.

    Since learning this, I have backtracked and decided to start working more steadily on getting ‘shelter’ for the homeless. Until, ‘we,’ as a community do this, the homeless will not be able to pull themselves up.

  12. GregZaller says:

    Good work, Anna.

    Just so you know, I’ve torn apart many outdoor constructions using those screws you describes and it was never a problem with the screws as the wood had rotted around them.

    Kudos to your incentive to interview some recipient of the micro-house gifts. Now that I am back from Davis I plan to spend some time interviewing homeless and disenfranchised youth to gain an understanding of their self perceptions and what actions they suggest, involving their own effort, that would help them to achieve a dignified life.

    I agree with Crabb about dignity being the goal and that this is true for all of us no matter where we live. One “Indian” living a sustainable carbon footprint could have more dignity than some of us “home-fulls” could even imagine. Dignity begins and ends with right actions. Jesus was homeless and told us we need to also be homeless to follow Him. All of us need to get out of the box and realize that dignity does not come from having homes and easy food.

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