Ending homelessness, block by block

Architects Rex Hohlbein and Jenn LaFrenier ask us to consider “Yes in my backyard” as an answer to homelessness.

This father-daughter duo has an idea: let’s reimagine our personal space by inviting homeless residents to move into beautifully designed, off-grid, homes built in residential backyards. Called “The Block Project” these tiny homes — built with neighborhood support and community volunteers— provides a path out of homelessness that encourages neighbors to come together as advocates, mentors and friends to those currently living on our streets. A Seattle native, Rex ran a successful residential architectural firm for 30 years. Seven years ago, after befriending several men experiencing homelessness along the Fremont canal, Rex started a Facebook page to raise awareness for those living unsheltered through the sharing of photos and personal stories. Today, that Facebook page has over 46,000 followers, becoming a thriving and inspirational non-profit, Facing Homelessness. This year begins a new chapter, as Rex combines both architecture and community outreach in starting a social justice architecture firm, BLOCK Architects, with his daughter Jenn LaFreniere. Jenn spent a little over five years working at Graham Baba Architects on an array of projects from small remodels to large commercial buildings. Discussions about starting a firm with her father, BLOCK Architects, sparked conversations about the ties between architecture and social justice, ultimately leading to the formation of the BLOCK Project, the first endeavor for their architectural firm

Jenn LaFreniere

The backyard approach to ending homelessness

Jenn LaFreniere is co-founder of the BLOCK Project, which invites community into the task of ending homelessness by placing a BLOCK Home in the backyard of homes across Seattle. Full bio