Our Proposal


“a hand up, not a handout”
… a sustainable view to end homelessness.

a proposal
by orland

HomelessEcoville is a concept of creating communities of ‘tiny houses’ where people who were homeless can come and learn to be self-sufficient by growing their own food and selling excess produce and crafts at farmers markets and other venues.  The ‘tiny house’ villages are supported, in part, by ‘big housed’ people who can help train and manage the needs of a HomelessEcoVille.

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower,
does not first sit down and count the cost,
whether he has enough to complete it?
Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish,
all who see it begin to mock him, saying,
‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”
(Luke 14:28–30, ESV)

orland d foster – bio.



·       single ‘studio’ style.

·       single ‘1 bedroom’ style.

·       couple ‘1 bedroom’ style.

·       family ‘2 bedroom’ style.

·       multi-person homes.

·       duplex style.

Main Building.

·       water service and distribution.

·       hot water/boiler system..

·       solar hot water.

·       heating.

·       electric service and distribution.

·       mail bank.

·       ‘community center’ or multipurpose/meeting room..

·       laundry.

·       complex office.

·       fruit stand/store.

Crop Production.

·       needs assessment.




orland d foster – bio
i am the registered owner of the domain names “iampoorandneedy.org” & “homelessecoville.com”  i created iampoorandneedy.org a year ago to assist in my work in bringing awareness to the many needs of the poor and needy on our planet.  i create and host websites and blogs for people who are doing good works around the world at no cost to them, as well as host my own pages and blog “the poor man’s word.”  i have worked with an orphanage in Mafubira, Uganda for a couple of years, and more recently, we were able to free two families from slavery in the brick kiln industries in Pakistan, through the sites and gofundme campaigns.

in 2006, my wife and i established New Wind Ministries, Inc. with our focus on the slums of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.  we established feeding projects that fed 240 kids, 6 days a week.  we funded this project from the profits from our construction company in Virginia.  we went to India twice a year to conduct Pastor conferences, kid’s camps, and crusades.  we were caught in the recent ‘depression’ and our business eventually closed, and as well as the feeding projects, and the ministry.

i have spent the majority of my career in the construction industry.  in 1983 i worked for my uncle framing subdivisions during the housing boom in Denver, CO.  i then learned the plumbing trade from my father in Seattle, WA.  he sold his business and bought a hotel in Prescott, AZ, where i spent a few years learning the hotel trade, starting as a desk clerk and ending as Comptroller.  i then moved to North Carolina and started building log homes, eventually becoming a general contractor in Maggie Valley.  i also worked for an electrical contractor on three-phase commercial wiring for a year.  in 1995, i moved to Richmond, VA, where i have worked for different companies as chief estimator, project manager, vice president, and eventually owner of my own design-build class A general contractor business specializing in churches and home renovation/additions.

when the demise of our business started, we seriously looked at our situation to evaluate ‘what would become of us.’  our house, built in 1910, was purchased in 1997 for $69,000 and sits on an approximately .25 acre lot.  over the years i had planted many fruit trees in the yard and i stared to turn the back yard into a garden/orchard.  we currently have apples, peaches, plums, figs, pears, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, mulberries, strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus, potatoes, peanuts, wheat, barley, and many other crops.  we preserve our harvests by canning, freezing, and dryng.  last year we established a ‘share garden’ in the front of our house between the sidewalk and the road for neighbors and strangers who may be too embarrassed to knock on our door for help.

our’s is a work in progress.  there is much to do, but we have been blessed and have all we desire in this life.  the work i do for HomelessEcoVille is my service to my brothers and sisters who are without shelter.  i offer this proposal/plan/idea for any purpose that may help to ease the burden of my many homeless brothers and sisters.

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Homelessness is a persistent problem around the country.  It affects people of all different backgrounds, upbringings, and educational experiences.  The concept of a HomelessEcoVille is born from the desire to help each other by giving ‘a hand up, not a handout.’  By taking a minimalist approach to needs, and assessing what things can be shared in common, we have attempted to look at  how we can help people help and support themselves in community.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, in January of 2014 there were 578,424 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States.   Of that number, 216,197 were people in families, and 362,163 were individuals.  About 15% of the homeless population, or 84,291 people, are considered “chronically homeless” which is defined as someone who has experienced homelessness for a year or longer, or who has experienced at least 4 episodes of homelessness in the last 3 years and has a disability.  About 9% of the homeless population, or 49,933, are veterans.

In an attempt to address this issue, we have looked at ways to provide housing and continued support of homeless people by supplying them with land on which to grow produce and raise small animals for their own use, as well as space for a produce stand/farmer’s market where excess produce and arts and crafts can be sold to cover other costs associated with a HomelessEcoVille and raise funds for future expansions.

In order for a HomelessEcoVille to be successful, location will play an important part.  Transportation to and from a village as well as proximity to the needs of the occupants can be crucial to the lives of the occupants.

Consideration should be given as to the organizational structure of a village as well.  Who owns the village?  Who decides who can stay?  What requirements would need to be in place for occupants to continue to stay in a village?  What oversight from outside a village would be needed, if any?

A HomelessEcoVille can take on many forms.  It could consist of a large house on land where people share common areas of the house but have their own rooms ‘boarding house’ style.  Or, it could consist of tiny houses in different styles and sizes.  The sizes of the houses would vary based on the individual needs of the person or persons to occupy the space, and the general layout and make-up of the entire village.

There are many large houses in cities around the country sitting vacant that could be converted to boarding houses.  Produce needed to support 5 or 6 people can be grown on as little as a 1/4 acre lot.  If the house is situated on a large enough property, it could be joined by a collection of ‘tiny houses’ as well.  For example, there is a 3 bedroom house on 1 acre of land in Kershaw, SC, selling for $29,900.  With this space, 3 or 4 tiny houses can be built and the other 1/2 acre can be converted to an orchard and garden.  If $10,000 is dedicated towards each ‘tiny house’, 9 people can be housed for $70,000, giving them the ability to support themselves moving forward.

This proposal attempts to identify several options for housing and some of the cost considerations of each.  Included is a cost analysis of each model including the takeoffs used and the dollar values used which primarily came from pricing on the Lowe’s website.

The pricing estimates should be used for comparison purposes only and not as an actual estimate for construction.  The models used were from plans available on the internet without consideration as to local conditions or codes.  Each model price is a price for the individual unit itself, so any ‘extra’ material is considered scrap and waste.  If one was to purchase more than one at a time, bulk pricing would come into play.

All concrete pricing is based on purchasing bags of concrete and mixing by hand.  In most cases it is much more cost effective to purchase concrete from a concrete supplier – pre-mixed and delivered to a job site ready to pour.  Likewise, cinderblock pricing is per Lowe’s website which is a per each price and much more expensive than purchasing block by the cube of 90 block.

We have not included any electrical costs, but would offer an initial budget of $750 per unit.  Depending on the local codes, each unit may be required to have its own service and meter base, increasing costs.  The ideal situation would be to treat the homes like cabins at a campground with the main electric supply housed at the main unit or utility building and all other units having their own sub-panels.

Also, labor costs are not included, the idea being that there are many homeless who have the skills to do all of the work that would need to be done, as well as the countless others who would be willing to volunteer their time building these buildings.  Most of the buildings could be completed in as little as two weekends of work.
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  • ·        single ‘studio’ style
    A single studio house consists of 350 sft or less and has its own bath with shower. The Pistacia is a sample model of 304 sft.  The materials for this unit, for cost comparison purposes, are approximately $6,400 and includes costs for a full kitchen and a thru-wall heater/air conditioning unit.

There are many other options for single studio style that would not include kitchen equipment and could be used in conjunction with a main house/utility building with a shared kitchen.  In a complex with a main house kitchen, even smaller studios can be built for less than $2,000 each.

This example is only 80 sft and can be built for around $1,200.  For $100 more, walls can be built to keep the hinged roof stable.

  • ·        single ‘1 bedroom’ style
    A single 1 bedroom style home consists of around 600 sft or less and includes a separate bedroom area, such as the Sea Thistle model.  This example has 379 sft with the bedroom being in a loft.  The materials for this unit, for cost comparison purposes, are approximately $7,300 on a concrete slab and include costs for a full kitchen and a thru-wall heater/air conditioning unit.  In this model, the kitchen sink serves as the bathroom sink as well, conserving space and keeping costs down.
  • ·        couple ‘1 bedroom’ style
    The couple 1 bedroom style home is similar to the single 1 bedroom model, but includes a vanity and sink in the bathroom.  The Ash model is a sample with 480 sft, as well as an attic of 240 sft.  The materials for this unit, for cost comparison purposes, are approximately $11,100 on a concrete slab, are more than comfortable for two people.  This reduces the per person cost to $5,500.  With some minor changes to the plan, the attic can be finished to allow another person to use that space for a minimal additional cost.
  • ·        family ‘2 bedroom’ style
    The family 2 bedroom style home is designed for a family of 3 or 4 people, with 2 sharing one bedroom.  The Lupine model is a sample with 896 sft, including 2 bedrooms, living and dining rooms.  The materials for this unit, for cost comparison purposes, are approximately $12,000 on a concrete slab, and are more than comfortable for a family of 3 or 4.  This reduces the per person cost to as low as $3,000.
  • ·        multi-person homes
    In many towns and cities around the country there are homes for sale with land that would fit this model.  In Orlando, FL, there are >20 homes with 3 bedrooms and 1/3 acre lots or larger currently being auctioned off with opening bids starting at $100.  Of course, there is no way on knowing what the final price on these properties would be, but this is a simple example of what can be found in one particular area.

We identified another property in Richmond, VA, that is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house on approximately 1/3 acre for $39,000.  This home could easily support 4 or 5 persons, at a per person cost as low as $7,800.

  • ·        duplex style
    Any of the prior mentioned ‘tiny homes’ can be built using a ‘common center wall’ and can be constructed ‘duplex style’ for a per unit savings in construction costs.  Sharing a common wall deducts the cost of one wall from one unit, uses one electric panel for both units, and combines main water and sewer connections.

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Main Building

To facilitate a village of ‘tiny houses’ we believe the most economical way to construct the ‘village’ would be to use a main building that houses the main utility connections as well as serves as the ‘big kitchen’ where things like canning and food preservation takes place.  This building could also serve as a meeting hall to conduct classes and town hall meetings of both residents and guests.  To support the community, a freezer, a refrigerator, and shelving for canned foods would be needed.   A portion of this building could also house a sheltered area for a farmers market.

  • ·        water service and distribution
    If the village is designed like a camp, the main water service would come to the main building in a utility room and be distributed to the individual units from there.  This would reduce the cost of individual meters for each unit.
  • ·        hot water/boiler system
    A main water heater could be used to provide hot water to every unit from one source.  All plumbing would be run underground.  There are many options of tanked and tankless water heaters that provide hot water without needing to install a water heater in each unit.
  • ·        solar hot water
    There are options for both passive and active water heating that could reduce or eliminate entirely the cost of hot water.  This could be as simple as an extra storage tank placed on a roof and painted black to absorb the heat of the sun, to as complex as active solar panels attached to a battery backup system.  Costs would run from as little as $30 to as much as $20,000 or more for a fully sustaining battery model.
  • ·        heating
    Included within the quoted model costs is a thru-wall electric heating/cooling unit similar to what can be found in a motel.  This is not the most economical means of heating the spaces, but it comes in a convenient, easy to install package.


    •    radiant heat
      A radiant heat system is either electric or hydronic and can be installed under floors, in walls, or in ceilings.  In a radiant heat system the heat energy is emitted from a warm element, such as a floor, wall, or overhead panel, and warms people and other objects in rooms rather than directly heating the air.  The main source for heating with this type system can be housed in the main building, or within the individual units themselves.  This type system can be used in conjunction with passive or active solar as well.
    •    wood
      Wood can be used as the primary source of heat, either through individual fireplaces in units themselves, or in an outdoor wood furnace boiler system.  These systems use either conventional firewood or wood pellets.  These systems also can be used in conjunction with radiant heat or radiator heating systems as well.
    •    electric
      Buildings can be designed with thru-wall units, baseboard heaters, or ductless mini-split systems.  There are systems available that are ductless mini-split heating and cooling systems that heat/cool a unit or units without using ductwork.  These systems are similar to thru-wall units, but all heat and cold is transferred to individual wall mount fan units that blow the hot or cold air.  The actual unit that creates the heat and cold is an outside unit like a standard outside A/C unit.  There are units available that are ductless with 5 separate zones or inside units, and as large as 3.8 Tons for under $5,000.  To put this in perspective, a 5-Zone system running 3.8 Tons could easily condition 2,300 sft of living space comfortably.
    •    gas
      In areas where it is available, gas is another alternative that should be considered, even if only for backup purposes.  In wall units that run on gas for individual units, as well as ventless gas log systems for fireplaces could be considered.

There are also boiler systems that are gas run and can be used with a radiant hydronic system or with a baseboard radiator hot water system.

  • ·        electric service and distribution
    Depending on local codes, you may be able to use one main electrical feed to a complex with one main meter base, and one electric bill.  This would allow power to be distributed to individual units through subpanel breakers in the units themselves and would reduce the cost of having to install a separate meter base and main breaker panel in each unit.


    •    active solar
      There are many options for active solar panels.  These systems can be used with a battery backup for off grid living, or used with an inverter to plug directly into the electrical system and supply power directly into the grid.  This inverter system offsets power used or provides even more power than used to sell back to the power company.  Inverters can start as low as $187 for a 1500W, 12/24V DC to 120/220V AC unit.  Solar panels can be purchased for about $1/per watt for preinstalled units, making a solar panel that produces 1500W around $1,500 or so.
    •    wind
      There are also many options for wind power now available.  There are wind turbines available that can produce 1,500W of power for under $900.  This can also be used in an off grid battery system or with a supplemental grid tie system.
  • ·        mail bank
    A HomelessEcoVillage should include a mail distribution center to handle the needs of mail and address requirements.  This can be done with a bank of mailboxes with unit numbers or with one main address with one person in charge of distribution to residents.
  • ·        ‘community center’ or multipurpose/meeting room
    With a group of people comes the need for the people to get together and express themselves.  A main building with a room large enough to accommodate a community center or meeting room would come in handy.  A community center could house classes taught on anything ranging from organizing your thoughts and personal development to job skills training.  A community center would also be used to hold regular occupant meetings to discuss the organization of tasks and other issues that may arise within the community.
  • ·        laundry
    The main building should house a washing machine and dryer with space to do laundry.  This saves costs associated with traveling to an outside facility,   Use of a clothes line instead of dryers would further curb costs.
  • ·        complex office
    The main building would house a complex office where the official business of the complex would be completed.  All paperwork and accounting could be kept in this secure location.
  • ·        fruit stand/store
    The fruit stand/store could occupy a section of the main building or stand alone as the needs and county codes will allow.  There is the potential for regular store hours to sell arts and crafts products as well as fruit and produce from the gardens.

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Crop Production

·        needs assessment
For discussion purposes, the below list gives some idea of the per person requirements as met by each type of plant.

1-4 plants per person

10-12 plants per person

Beans, Bush
10-20 plants per person

Beans, Lima
10-20 plants per person

Beans, Pole
10-20 plants per person

10-20 plants per person

5-10 plants per person

Brussels Sprouts
2-8 plants per person

3-10 plants per person

10-40 plants per person

3-5 plants per person

1-5 plants per person

3-8 plants per person

12-40 plants per person

3-5 plants per person

1 plant per person, plus 2-3 extra per family

1 5’ row per person

10-12 plants per person

2-6 plants per person

40-80 plants per person

25-60 plants per person

5-6 plants per person

10-30 plants per person

1 plant per person

2-3 crowns per person

10-20 plants per person

Summer Squash
2-4 plants per person

Winter Squash
2 plants per person

Sweet Potatoes
5 plants per person

2-5 plants per person

On the 5 acre plot sample village enclosed with this proposal, 24 persons were used as the basis for establishing the needs and maximum number of plants from the list above.  The garden beds in brown represent the needs of the 24 peoples, while the beds in red represent the available space for crops to sell.

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In summary, we would encourage you to look at helping to create a sustainable village of people who have the tools necessary to support themselves, and in turn, help each other — the ‘hand up, not handout’ approach.  With the sale of produce and craft items, one HomelessEcoVille could provide the funds sufficient to start another HomelessEcoVille in another area.  People could be free to travel to other areas where their particular skill set is needed to both construct and manage the new HomelessEcoVille.

We believe that this approach is a sustainable approach to help people help themselves.  With the proper community involvement, people can come and train others on ways to support themselves through learning food growing, food preservation techniques, and arts and crafts production and marketing.  People would learn about small business management in the process of running and maintaining a HomelessEcoVille.

There are many other considerations that we would be glad to discuss, should you desire.  We compiled an inexhaustive list of items we believe should be considered when looking at a HomelessEcoVillage.  We would be glad to expand on any of the following topics, should you desire.

  •          composting
  •          ‘tool shed’
    •    hoe’s
    •    shovel
    •    clippers
    •    mowers
    •    trimmers
    •    hammers
    •    nail aprons
  •          growing
    •    raised bed
    •    permaculture
    •    hydroponic
    •    greenhouse
    •    growlight
  •          Animal Husbandry
    •    chickens
    •    rabbits
    •    goats
    •    cows
  •          Fund Raising
    •    host farmers market – booth rental
      •   20 – 8 x 8 booths @ $20. = $1,600/mth
    •    sell crafts
    •    sell produce
    •    memorials
      •   memorial bricks
      •   memorial buildings
      •   memorial trees
      •   memorial gardens

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In conclusion, I wish to help you in any way possible.  I have the ability to produce CAD drawings to meet your specifications for any plan you may wish to pursue.  I do not charge, but willingly use my abilities to help meet the needs of my brothers and sisters who are experiencing homelessness.  I would be more than pleased to assist you in any manner you desire.

Thank you for your time,

Orland D. Foster





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