One of the exhibitors who will be present at the Home and Fun Expo at the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds June 24-25, will be Houdini Housing, creator of “tiny homes.”
These tiny homes can offer a glimmer of hope for people often without one, and, for event planner Sylvia Andersen, they presented a chance to make a difference.
Tiny Homes are premanufactured and “pop-up”, taking only a couple of days to erect and offering 400 square feet of living space, including a living, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom space.
Andersen said she saw the brilliance and possibilities of such housing when she learned of a heartbreaking situation with one of the long-time exhibitors at her shows.
The elderly gardener had been self-employed for most of his life, and when expositions opened back up following two difficult years of COVID dormancy, Andersen said she reached out to “Bob” to see if he would be interested in being a presenter.
“Bob had done our garden shows for decades and I knew he had health issues. I had a show in February 2022 and asked if he would be available and he said yes because he finally had a place to live.”
Bob lived with his girlfriend of more than 20 years, but when she passed away, the home was left to her son, and it was sold.
“He was living in his car for four months. He was 84 and homeless. I couldn’t even fathom at the age of 84 being homeless and living in your car,” Andersen said.
That is when Andersen realized there was a whole facet of society struggling unnoticed.
“I thought of how vulnerable seniors can be who are self-employed, especially if you don’t have family or are on your own. Small business owners can’t afford benefits, you just try to survive. In that generation many didn’t prepare for a time when they couldn’t work. One health issue and many seniors could be homeless,” she said.
Senior homelessness is accelerating across the United States, but in the debate on homelessness initiatives they often not mentioned at all.
Homelessness due to mental health or addiction issues often drown out other voices and recognizing this is what made Andersen raise her own voice in a call for action.
“I don’t believe we have looked at people who have worked hard their whole lives and suddenly find themselves homeless. I decided I was in a position where I could do something, so I started a charity called A Village for Bob. They will be tiny home communities and I will be building one in Utah and California.”
Villages for Bob will be communities of tiny homes where healthy seniors can live when they find themselves homeless.
They will be true communities, with a community garden and store, where seniors can live their lives or until health requires them to move to an assisted living environment.
Due to the need for affordable housing, in 2021 the Utah State Legislature passed an update to its Accessory Dwelling Units code that allows for homes like tiny homes that Andersen intends to use to create A Village for Bob.
But creating a charity requires funding, and when it came to funding her A Village for Bob charity, she looked first to her own furnishings.
“I sold all my sterling silver and the entertaining stuff that I don’t use and knew I wouldn’t use. That’s how we raised the money for the registration fees of the charity,” she said.
Hearing Bob’s story sparked a fire that Andersen said will burn for the remainder of her days. Information on A Village for Bob charity and Houdini Housing’s tiny homes will be available at the Home and Fun Expo.
“My calling in the future is to work on this problem. These seniors don’t have a fall back plan. I can’t run fast enough right now to make this happen. For as long as I am healthy this is where my drive is going to be, to create a resource for those people who find themselves in a situation of homelessness. Someone has to care about them, and I do,” Andersen said.