Sixty-year-old Irene McGhee, better known as ‘Smokie,’ has been homeless for the past decade after losing her husband, and then her home.
She frequented the Los Angeles neighborhood where 37-year-old Elvis Summers lives, asking for recyclables. Over time, the two struck up an unlikely friendship and it didn’t take long before Summers wanted to help Smokie in some way.
Summers told CBS2/KCAL9, “She’s a human being, 60 years old, a mother, a grandmother, sleeping in the dirt. It’s just not right.”
Smokie said, “It was really hard, people talking crazy to you, kids are mean to you, talk about ‘look at that old woman pushing a basket.’”
Summers decided to build her a small house. He bought $500 worth of wood and a local building supply company donated some siding and roof shingles.
It took him five days to build the three-and-a-half-by-eight-foot house, complete with a window and sturdy wheels to move it to different locations.
“I had nowhere to really build it, so I just built it on the street outside my apartment. The LAPD have been super cool, and told me they support it as long as we move it to a different spot every 72 hours,” he explained.
Sleeping in her new home for the first time, Smokie said, “It felt so good. I was so relaxed. I think I must’ve slept half of the day.”
Since building Smokie’s house, several other homeless people have asked Summers to build one for them. Seeing a real need, he’s launched a crowd-funding campaign called “My Tiny House Project L.A.” on GoFundMe. He wants to hire other homeless people to build their own houses with his help. He hopes to raise $50,000 and is working to find city property where the houses can be placed.
The house might be small, but it’s making a huge difference.
Watch the touching video below of Savannah Guthrie lending a hand to Feeding America.