SOUTH LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A 37-year-old man in South L.A. didn’t want to see a local woman sleeping on the streets anymore.
Irene McGhee, better known as “Smokie,” has been homeless for more than a decade after losing her husband and her house.
“It was really hard. People talking crazy to you, kids are mean to you, talk about ‘look at that old woman pushing a basket,'” she said.
For the past few years, the 60-year-old has frequented the area around 30th and Van Buren. That’s where she met Elvis Summers.
She’d occasionally come by asking for his recyclables and the two became unlikely friends. And it wasn’t long before Summers knew he wanted to help Smokie out.
“She’s a human being, 60 years old, a mother, grandmother, sleeping in the dirt. It’s just not right,” he said.”
Smokie told CBS2/KCAL9’s Rachel Kim, “He said, ‘What would you think if I built you a house?’ I said, ‘When is it gonna be ready?'”
Summers purchased $500 worth of wood boards and a local company donated siding and roofing so he could start building a place for Smokie to call home: “I just wanted to build it safe enough, secure enough so she’d be warm, comfortable.”
It took five days and some creativity to build a portable three-and-a-half-by-eight-foot house, which also had a window.
She said, “I felt so good. I was so relaxed. I think I must’ve slept half of the day.”
Inspired by the need in his community, Summers started a campaign, “My Tiny House Project L.A.,” on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe so he can hire other homeless people to build their own houses with him.
As for Smokie’s house, Summers said, “LAPD says as long as we move it, not in a red spot, but move it once every 72 hours, for now, we’re all right.”
The do-gooder wants this house to give Smokie hope for the future. And although it’s small in size, it’s already accomplished big things for Smokie, who says she wants to start looking for a job.
Summers is working with local LAPD officers to find city-owned property where these houses can be placed on a short- or long-term basis. For more information or to help others get off the streets visit Summers’ GoFundMe campaign. As of Tuesday night, he had raised $3,200 of his $50,000 goal.