Local home builder designs portable pods for homeless encampments

KENMORE, Wash. — A custom home builder has created a portable pod that can be quickly assembled and dismantled to be used at homeless encampments.

Mark Huber, who has made custom homes in the area for more than 30 years, said he has done a lot of home building for people in developing nations. In looking around the Seattle area, he felt he could contribute to the solution.

“I just make panels that screw together on the corners so you can disassemble it with four screws on each panel and it comes apart,” Huber said.

The materials for these pods cost $1,500. Huber said he intends to share the design publicly so others can build them in a simple, efficient way.

He designed the pods after looking at current tiny houses in homeless encampments that are built into one piece. They either need to be built off-site and taken to the site or built on-site over the course of a couple of days.

Instead, Huber’s pods can be assembled by two people in 30 minutes. They can be dismantled just as fast to move the pod to a new location, as encampments often must.

His pods are 56 square feet with two loft beds built in. Some space is left below the lower bed for storage. They also have a camping toilet and a wash basin.

“You can’t be looking for a job if you can’t change your clothes, if you don’t have any place to put it, if you don’t have any way to bathe,” he said.

The first of these pods is now at the Georgetown Nickelsville site at 1000 S. Myrtle St. The non-profit operator of this encampment, Low Income Housing Institute, said all their structures are inspected by city staff.

Leo Brizzee, a resident at the encampment, said the pod was built so fast he didn’t even see people putting it up. The pods are smaller than their typical tiny houses.

“It holds body heat a lot better than the bigger ones,” Brizzee said, “I think there’s a lot more condensation in those.”

Huber has also been in talks with city of Seattle, city of Redmond, and non-profits in Redmond to bring these pods to more people.