If Hurricane Katrina showed us anything, it was how little attention is paid by individuals, agencies, and governments to the issue of transitional housing until the crisis is at hand. This lack of advance planning results in dismal solutions like temporary trailer parks even though a plethora of innovative options for disaster relief housing are there for the implementing.
Spurred on by the horrific images of the damage inflicted by Katrina (and, later, Hurricane Wilma), architect Carib Daniel Martin and builder Rob Bragan took the initiative to develop disaster-relief housing that would not only shelter the displaced but provide them with a real sense of home. As Martin explains, “[We thought it was time] to once again consider the role of architecture within our social and cultural framework as well as the potential for technology and industrialization to better the world.” In September 2005, the pair designed and built (with the help of several volunteers) the HELP (Housing Every Last Person) house prototype. Just 8 feet by 12 feet, the HELP house squeezes into its comfy quarters two sleeping areas, a full kitchen and eating area, and a bathroom.
Key to the tiny structure’s success is its ability to transform its main living space from a lounge to a dining room to a bedroom by utilizing common elements like a sleeper sofa and enough hinges to help hide space-consuming items like a bunk bed and kitchen table. With a nod to Southern vernacular architecture, Martin and Bragan decided to include a small front porch, thereby providing a welcome mat not only for future residents, but for the entire recovering neighborhood.