When Arnold Stalk, an architect working with homeless housing, was on a cruise in the 1980s, he spotted dozens of disused shipping containers at the ports he passed — and he had an idea.
Stalk, who used to be an architecture professor, worked with students to come up with ideas for how the containers could be turned into homes in Las Vegas, Nevada. He eventually created prototypes, which he refined to become accessible and government approved. The community, known as Share Village, was founded in 1994.
For the past 25 years, homeless veterans and other homeless people have been living at the community of shipping container homes. This month, more than 25 years after Share Village was born, a second village, Share Village #2, opened for people in need.
Take a look at the shipping container village Stalk and his colleagues have created for Las Vegas' homeless.
Stalk, pictured left, has been working with homeless people for 42 years.
He began volunteering with AmeriCorps VISTA, a national foundation that helps alleviate poverty, after graduating from architecture school. At VISTA, he worked under other architects and they started building community centers.
"The first project was the methadone clinic for heroin addicts on Skid Row. And it's been one community project after another so that's a good run," he said.
Back in 1986, Stalk was on a cruise when he saw the huge "steel boxes." He starting thinking about their dimensions and how they could be used.
"The 8-foot-wide by 40-foot-long by 8-foot-high shipping containers are one of the only standardized industrial products in the world. And there's about 12 million of them that are living in ports and harbors all around the world," he said.
He said they could quickly and cheaply be turned into suitable homes.
Stalk said he thinks shipping containers could do a lot of good as short-term housing for the victims of the Nashville tornado.
Share Village has so far housed 1,834 people, and given beds to 366,942 people.
The homes themselves are larger than most tiny homes, so they have ample living space.
The homes come in two sizes: a smaller, 160-square-foot unit and a larger, 320-square-foot unit.
Though Stalk says he understands why many people don't want to live in affordable housing, he is trying to change that perspective by creating clean, quality, and affordable homes.
A new village, Share Village #2, opened on March 2, 2020.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Stalk said, "This is just one solution of many things I think we ought to be doing in the building industry and the architectural community and in the philanthropy community."
According to Military.com, about 41% of those who served after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other war zones have disability ratings from the Department of Veterans Affairs, compared to 25% of veterans from other eras.
Stalk uses green technologies in his homes, like solar panels, to help make the homes sustainable for the long term.
Share Village has a huge amount of community support.
"Three times a week we have people come in and get all sorts of really high quality meats, cheeses, and dairy products," Stalk said.
So far, Share Village has distributed 2,457,664 pounds of food and given out 130,081 meals.
Stalk has raised funds in both the public and private sector to help fund Share Village. Their efforts have been funded in part by the Venetian Hotel, the Las Vegas Raiders, and the local labor union.
Though Share Village is located right in the middle of a residential neighborhood, Stalk says that he luckily doesn't experience much "nimbyism", or the "not in my backyard" attitude.
"I think we get along really well with our neighbors. We do our own security. I'm a little biased, but it is a big well-run operation," he said.
Though Stalk says that the "minimal living environment isn't for everybody," they have managed to establish a real community. Events and outreach programs are also carried out weekly.
One homeless couple even met and fell in love at the village, and were featured in a Review Journal story.
"Those types of stories are not uncommon. You just don't hear a lot of them," Stalk said.
Stalk recently added to his housing project by adding an entirely new community of homes. The subsidized rent for each home is between $200 and $300 a month, far more affordable than your typical Las Vegas apartment.