For homeless, a house with a roof

Selmia Magee, right, stands next to her EDAR, a portable home, with her family.

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: The bad news from Southern California isn't really unique, but that doesn't make it any less tragic. Officials here in Los Angeles County say homelessness has doubled since last year. Today, more than 74,000 people in the county have no place to call home. At the same time, there are only 12,000 shelter beds to go around.

Enter a device called the EDAR, which stands for "everyone deserves a roof." By day, it's a heavy duty shopping cart. By night, it converts to a tent that can sleep two people. Rob Schmitz takes a look.


Rob Schmitz: The idea for EDAR came to Hollywood producer Peter Samuelson on a bike ride last year. He noticed there were more homeless people than usual, and one of them gave him a tour of her make-shift home.

Peter Samuelson: There, behind the bushes was a large cardboard box. And it had been raining and it was wet. And it was smelly. And it was disgusting. And this was her home.

Samuelson sponsored a competition to invent an alternative, and the winner came up with the EDAR.

Selmia Magee zips open the canvas flap of her EDAR unit and peeks outside. Last night, she slept on the floor of the chapel at an overcrowded homeless shelter on LA's Skid Row. The 7 foot-long tent is suspended inches off the cold ground by wheels. Its floor is a thin, firm mattress. Its ceiling, a beige water-proof canvas, is four feet tall.

Selmia Magee: And it has like these little windows that you can open up, right? And then you can just feel the mattresses, it's really nice.

After you sleep in it, the EDAR converts to a covered shopping cart where you can keep your belongings.

Magee: You just simply lift that up. And it clicks.

Magee, her husband, two children, and two grandchildren have all been homeless since November, when her husband lost his job as a trucker. For her daughter, 11-year-old Kiyomi, the EDAR serves as a place to do homework, draw, and to escape from the routine at the shelter.

Kiyomi: It's kind of like my own little room, because I have my bed and then I have, I can put my stuff here and then I have a window. It's like a room.

Outside the chapel, EDARs line the hallways. The shelter has just ordered close to 50 more of them at $500 each. It's searching for donations to cover the expenses. Samuelson is currently in talks with one city in Southern California to use vacant land for an EDAR encampment. He plans to give away 10,000 EDARs by the end of this year.

In Los Angeles, I'm Rob Schmitz, for Marketplace.

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