Challenge

At the height of the pandemic, the 50 residents of “A Better Tent City” were forced to relocate after the land their community of tiny home shelters resided on was sold. When searching for a new location, the community was met with stark opposition from locals, many of whom deemed the community and its residents as an unsafe and unwelcome addition to their neighbourhood. A petition on Change.org had even been created with thousands of signatures by locals not wanting these tiny homes relocated to the Kitchener, Waterloo region. The lives of these residents hung in the balance unless a new location could be found and approved by city council.

Inspiration

Negative stereotypes about those experiencing homelessness were rampant as were preconceptions about the tiny homes at “A Better Tent City”. We needed to change perceptions by educating those in the Waterloo region about the issues facing the homeless community and the importance these tiny homes play in helping those who need them find more permanent housing.

Idea

Because we couldn’t bring people to see the community in person, we transformed one of the tiny homes into a travelling educational exhibit, aimed at changing the negative perceptions around the community and its residents.

The “Unwelcome home” was brought to high traffic locations throughout the Kitchener-Waterloo region including stop at markets, schools, museums and community centres. We invited local politicians to come and visit our exhibit in the hopes they would see the importance of granting a new location for the community to live.

In addition to stories, images and messages from real residents, the Unwelcome Home was outfitted with contactless donation terminals, to help raise funds to build and sustain more tiny homes for those in need.

Growth

Due to revitalized support from the city, its residents and politicians, the relocation proposal that was initially rejected by city council was successfully overturned, laying the groundwork for “A Better Tent City” to secure a permanent—and welcome—home in Kitchener-Waterloo. At the same time we were able to raise thousands of dollars in donations which have gone towards sustaining this essential community.

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