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Artist Creates Homes for the Homeless



Welcome to American Mosaic from VOA Learning English. I’m Caty Weaver.

An artist in Oakland, California is using his skills to help the homeless. Greg Kloehn builds very small shelters that make life on the streets a little more comfortable. The structures offer the homeless some safety and protection from bad weather. Each little house also has wheels on the bottom so it can go wherever its owner goes.

Greg Kloehn has given away at least 20 tiny houses. Several are on the roadside near an active railroad. On a recent day, Mr. Kloehn stops at one to visit Oscar Young. The two men hug.

“I like to help them. Sure. I mean it's fun for me. I like to make things, and do something that makes a big impact on someone’s life is good.”

Inside his little shelter Mr. Young gets relief from cold nights on the streets.

“Well, it is better than living on the ground, to tell you the truth, because if it was not for Greg, I would be still on the ground.”

Mr. Kloehn also visits Sweet-Pea, another friend who also lives in one of the little homes the artist built. She says it keeps her safe and protects her belongings.

“I love my house.”

In the mornings, Mr. Kloehn searches the streets for building materials. He gathers what he can and takes it to his studio. There, he puts the houses together.

“I mean, I've been in the middle of the building process, run out of materials, gotten in my truck, drove around to look for something. That’s my shopping.”

A cabinet door becomes a window cover. Pallets, flat wooden structures used in transport and storage, become walls.

“Here’s a pallet. The top is a door.”

The artist also attaches a small electrical device to the house. The device is powered by the sun.

“I put it on a light, you know, an old lamp, so you could move it around. You can keep it optimum just to the sun.”

Empty coffee bags become roof material. A washing machine door and refrigerator part become windows. Nails, screws and the sticky substance glue hold all the pieces together.

“I kind of call them the fruits of the urban jungle. Here's what's dropping. Here's these natural resources that we can use.”

Some of the people living on the streets once had normal houses of their own. But Sheila Williams says she has learned to live with less.

“I had it all just like you people do out there. But now look at me now. I'm living in one of Greg’s houses, and I am thankful to that man.”

The Kloehn home owners have collected wood and other found materials for future building efforts. Sheila Williams gives the artist a picture of flowers that looks almost new.

“When I finish the homes off, they sometimes come with art work, everything installed.

Mr. Kloehn says his work is not a social project. He says he is just someone using his skills to help his homeless neighbors.

I’m Caty Weaver.

VOA’s Michael O’Sullivan reported this story from Oakland, California. Caty Weaver wrote it for Learning English. Jeri Watson was the editor.

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Words in this Story

skills – n. abilities gained from training or experience

protection – n. something that keeps a person or thing from being harmed, lost, etc.: something that protects someone or something

belongings n. the things that belong to a person: possessions

sheltern. a structure that gives protection; a place of safety

roof – n. the cover or top of a building, vehicle, etc.

Now it’s your turn to use these Words in this Story. In the comments section, write a sentence using one of these words and we will provide feedback on your use of vocabulary and grammar.

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