Letter 1

Lucas Car TentingThis summer, I am going to visit tiny-home villages (like the tiny-homes on HGTV) in Austin, Texas; Portland and Eugene, Oregon; and Seattle, Washington. The unique thing about the tiny-homes I am visiting is that they are used as transitional housing for the homeless and permanent housing for the formerly homeless. The increased use of tiny-homes as affordable housing solutions brought these communities to my attention, especially given the very present issues of homelessness that can be seen right outside of Duke’s campus.

I am most interested in how these tiny-home villages for the homeless create a sense of community and belonging. I will interview residents and administrative staff to try to understand this. I will also volunteer at and participate in these communities alongside residents. Throughout this summer, I will not be living in these communities, but I will rather be living out of my car. This will be an experience I anticipate being difficult and relative as many of the people I will speak to have lived out of cars for extended periods of time. By no means will this simulate what it feels like to be homeless, but I believe it will be personally revealing.

I’m looking forward to hearing the unique stories and narratives of interviewees, but I am also excited to see these tiny-home communities because tiny-homes have interested me for several years. With both of my parents being architects, the design challenges that tiny-homes entail is what originally caught my attention.

One thing I am most concerned about is making connections with the residents. Because many of the communities I am studying have been studied before, residents can be tired of participating in research, feel pressured to participate, or, most commonly, experience the fishbowl effect. Many may also have a simple distrust of others from their experiences living on the street. By working with the staff at these villages to meet residents, I feel that I will be able to avoid some of these issues and gain trust, but I truly believe that treating the residents as regular people will bridge the most gaps.

There are many other unknowns about what this summer will entail, but I’m ready to go out and begin!

Lucas is a Trinity freshman from Wetumpka, Alabama pursuing a Program II major consisting of cultural anthropology, statistical science, and mechanical engineering geared towards mixed-methods problem solving. On campus, he is a member of Air Force ROTC, marching band, basketball pep band, and Spire Fellows. He will be staying at and conducting miniature ethnographies of three homeless communities and six tiny-home homeless communities across the United States. Through interviews and observations, he will examine the successes and pitfalls of these communities while he tries to define what home truly is for American homeless communities.
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