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Millionaire Builds Community Of Tiny Homes To Combat Homelessness & Offers Residents Jobs

Photo: Ksenia Chernaya / Pexels
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A Canadian entrepreneur named Marcel LeBrun is using his wealth to benefit his New Brunswick community by offering a place to live to the many unhoused people in his city of Fredericton. 

LeBrun took the profits he made from selling his social media monitoring company, investing $4 million dollars of his fortune to start the 12 Neighbours Community, described as “a dignified micro-home community where housing is just the beginning.”

The millionaire is building a community of tiny homes to combat homelessness while offering residents jobs.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that within the last year, 235,000 people have experienced homelessness in Canada, and LeBrun is taking action to help. 

LeBrun has pledged to build 99 micro-homes for people who are homeless. His factory is currently producing 1 tiny home every 4 business days, in an effort to finish construction on the affordable housing community, which is three-quarters of the way to being done. 

Along with LeBrun’s own personal contributions, the project has received grants and monetary support from the local and national government, sending $12 million to the 12 Neighbours Community.

Each micro-home has a full-service kitchen, a living area and bedrooms, and a full bathroom. They also come with a deck and solar panels.

The 12 Neighbours Community seeks to provide more than just a roof over people’s heads — LeBrun is also fostering social connections and providing rehabilitative services.

“Our vision is to see people overcome barriers to a full and independent life,” the 12 Neighbours website states. The micro-home community provides substance abuse counseling services, educational opportunities, and on-site job training. The support networks are described as being “person-centric, trauma-informed, recovery oriented and strength-based.” 

“Housing is just the beginning,” their website proclaims. “We are also community builders, where the community becomes a healing agent.”

12 Neighbours is more than just its 99 homes. It's a community in all senses of the word, offering health services and employment opportunities to residents.

The location includes an enterprise center with various business ventures, where residents can work, earning wages and marketable skills. 

A major roadblock to reestablishing oneself after being undomiciled is finding work. LeBrun is dedicated to helping people get fully back on their feet by offering “low-barrier, patient and progressive employment opportunities” to support people’s re-entrance into the workforce.

millionaire builds community tiny homes combat homelessness offer jobsPhoto: Timur Weber / Pexels 

Micro-home residents can work at Neighbourly Coffee, a pop-up coffee shop, or at the community’s silk printing business, crafting and selling screen-printed tote bags and clothes emblazoned with hopeful and inspiring messages.

12 Neighbours advocates for safe, accessible and permanent housing as a human right and as a stepping stone for a flourishing life. LeBrun is doing his part to combat a major social issue, yet not everyone believes that his micro-home approach is the best practice to do so.

The executive director of Fredericton Homeless Shelters, Warren Maddox, offered advice to LeBrun regarding the level of ambition of the 12 Neighours Community early on in the project’s development. He advocated for LeBrun to “stop at 50 [homes] and take a breath.”

"It's a huge concentration [of people]. You've got people that have paranoia, or that have come through some really massive trauma, where they need to be sort of away from that population,” Maddox explained. 

He believes in a model that’s more decentralized, where previously unhoused people live in different parts of the city, in order to avoid a high concentration of people in close quarters. 

Yet LeBrun upholds the idea that the 12 Neighbours model is 'the best model to achieve lasting transformation in reducing poverty and homelessness.'

As he sees it, “We wanted to make a dent in the challenge that we have here in Fredericton… If we want to actually make a meaningful difference, we have to build some houses.”

LeBrun maintains that the built-in support networks within the 12 Neighbours Community is the most effective route to reconnection.

Residents also have access to addiction recovery programs, personal development plans, and support workers. The community itself is close to bus routes, grocery stores and other commercial access points, all of which allow residents to rebuild their livelihoods.

millionaire builds community tiny homes combat homelessness offer jobsPhoto: cottonbro studio / Pexels 

To reach his final goal of 99 micro-homes, LeBrun has encouraged other Fredericton community members to join his cause by donating to the 12N Development Fund.

“This is the type of investment designed to support long-term transformation, to help people overcome barriers to poverty and independence, and transform [the] city,” the website states.

While LeBrun’s approach might not be perfect, it is an actionable attempt at easing endemic social inequalities and helping people live the best versions of their lives. 

Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers social issues, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.