Transforming Tent Cities With Windows and Doors
The Other Ones Foundation hopes to install personalized shelters at the Esperanza Community
To live in Texas is to know the value of air conditioning. This is one of the reasons that Max Moscoe, spokesperson for Austin-based nonprofit The Other Ones Foundation, is excited about the tiny homes that TOOF plans to provide to those experiencing homelessness – they have electricity and even climate control. "It doesn't matter who you are, where you came from," Moscoe said, "If you're living in Texas you deserve a little AC."
TOOF demonstrated the structures on Nov. 24 at the Esperanza Community, a state-sanctioned homeless encampment on Hwy. 183, near Montopolis. Called Pallet Shelters, the structures have the reassuring proportions of traditional homes, with windows, a door, and a gabled roof. Each is composed of seven insulated panels that can be inexpensively transported by truck, then bolted together in 30 minutes. They come in 64- and 100-square-feet versions, with the base unit selling for $4,900.
Moscoe sees Pallet Shelters replacing the rows of tents at the Esperanza Community. Approximately 150 people have lived there since 2019, on five acres of industrial asphalt loaned by the state of Texas. "You can see the conditions here are not safe," Moscoe said. "It's a borderline humanitarian crisis. The asphalt gets up to 150 degrees in the summer. It's flat and there's no drainage, so it flash floods, the wind is crazy, and we need to get people out of these tents and into something that is safe and also dignified."
TOOF has been working with those experiencing homelessness since 2018, partnering with the city to offer them $15 an hour to work on various community improvement projects. Last year, TOOF rolled that endeavor into a second project, a mobile hygiene clinic called the Box of Rain that provides showers, toilets, phone charging stations, and lunches at locations around the city on different days through the week.
The Esperanza Community is their latest focus. TOOF moved its headquarters there in August, dragging in trailers to create a gathering place at the back of the lot with bathrooms, hot showers, Wi-Fi, computers, and a community kitchen. They are connecting residents with caseworkers, offering medical and mental health care, and sitting with a committee elected by residents to hear the community's needs each Tuesday. A Department of Public Safety officer is on-site at all times.
Moscoe said DPS, the Texas Department of Transportation, and Texas Department of Emergency Management have been integral to Esperanza's success. "We have a handshake agreement that we're out here for one year, and it's kind of on a trial basis," he said. "But I would like to believe that this is here to stay and only going to get better and safer and healthier."
TOOF has settled on the Pallet Shelters as the next step toward that goal; now comes the money part. Moscoe said: "It's going to be a privately funded $2 million capital campaign to fill out this lot with, hopefully, 200 of these units. We're going to be working with people throughout the community. There'll likely be faith-based people, we're hoping the business community will step up, private donors, foundations. Anybody who wants to donate to The Other Ones Foundation is more than welcome to and they can find out how to do that at Toofound.org."