Minn. man invents portable houses for disabled people

John Louiselle and Jesse Lammi
In a Thursday, July 2, 2015 photo, NextDoor Housing owners John Louiselle, left, and Jesse Lammi stand inside of a Drop Home, a mobile home available to rent or buy, in Minneapolis. The NextDoor is designed to allow any disabled person to live near loved ones.
Holly Peterson | St. Paul Pioneer Press via AP

Eino Lammi never should have been cleaning his gutters.

Performing a task perhaps better left to a younger man, he was 92 when he fell off a ladder four years ago. His injury forced him to recuperate in a nursing home away from his family — an experience he hated.

That inspired his grandson to invent housing that would have allowed Lammi to recover right in his own front yard, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

"The whole purpose is to keep people out of institutions," said Jesse Lammi of White Bear Lake as he gave a tour of his $50,000 NextDoor Homes unit.

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The NextDoor is designed to allow any disabled person to live near their loved ones. It comes with a jack-up system that raises the house for highway travel, and then lowers it for temporary parking on a driveway or lawn.

It is handicap accessible, designed so a senior or anyone using a wheelchair can move in immediately.

The younger Lammi teamed up in 2014 with boyhood friend Jon Louiselle to develop the units with a $342,000 grant from the state Department for Human Services — part of $5.3 million awarded to develop ways to allow senior citizens to remain in their homes.

"I got a call from the DHS saying, 'You guys need to apply for this,'" Lammi recalled.

Lammi and Louiselle, who hope to begin manufacturing the NextDoor units this fall, already are renting out their first unit for about $1,000 a month.

Mobile home for disabled people
NextDoor Housing's Drop Home, a mobile home available to rent or buy, is seen in Minneapolis on Thursday, July 2, 2015.
Holly Peterson | St. Paul Pioneer Press via AP

Lammi has received queries from churches interested in temporary housing for the homeless and businesses that want housing for workers on a job site.

Lammi said he's not sure how long and where customers would be able to park the NextDoor units on their property. Some cities probably would allow the units under rules that govern the parking of RVs, he said, while others would not.

Simply put, the unit is a cross between a Winnebago and assisted living — a 240-square-foot cottage mounted on wheels. The shingled roof is peaked, and the seven windows make it look open and inviting. A bump-up roof on one end accommodates a loft inside. It can be hauled by most pickup trucks.

"We get a whole lot of looks when we drive it around — what the heck is that?" said Louiselle.

In a warehouse in Minneapolis, Louiselle pressed a button — and in 30 seconds, the whole house is lowered 7 inches.

That helps to hide the wheels — and gives it another critical advantage. In that position, the home requires the occupant to only cross a 7-inch step, compared with about 22 inches for a typical RV.

Inside, the unit boasts dozens of handicapped-friendly touches.

Power outlets are about 3 feet from the floor — easy to reach. The extra-wide doors have handles, not knobs.

Low countertops have recessed cabinets underneath so wheelchairs can scoot up close. The bathroom is surprisingly large, including the wheel-in shower stall.

A second bed can be put on the loft for visitors or a live-in assistant.

When parked by a house, the unit's electricity will come from a plug-in connection. Water will come from a hook-up with a garden hose.

When flushing the toilet, the water goes into a holding tank. Roughly every three weeks a septic-system service would be needed to clean it out for about $50, Lammi said.

The other waste water, called "gray water," comes from showers and sinks. That would be dumped directly into the yard or pavement, assuming the occupant was using bio-degradable soaps.

"You could irrigate the lawn or the flowers," he said.

The NextDoor has its own water heater and a heat exchanger to provide heating and air conditioning.

It's exactly the kind of place his grandfather would have loved, Lammi said. The unit could have been parked outside the family home in Mounds View, and his children and grandchildren could have visited every day.

But instead, he had to make the decision to move into a nursing home.

"At the time, there was no rental housing option," Lammi said. "He was so mad."

This is an AP Member Exchange by Bob Shaw of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.