Shipping containers removed from Arizona-Mexico border wall to house those transitioning out of foster care

Some shipping containers that once stood at the Arizona border with Mexico to keep people out are now being converted into tiny homes to welcome people in.

More than 2,000 containers are available to government entities and nonprofits. The leftovers will go up for sale to the public in October. 

A community of tiny homes made out of shipping containers. That’s the goal of Bryan Benz, founder and CEO of Wholistic Transformation.

"We are going to have a solar array, so we are going to be environmentally friendly. We are going to harvest rainwater, we are going to have a community garden," Benz said.

The Tucson nonprofit is recycling shipping containers to build seven livable spaces for young people transitioning out of the foster care system. Wholistic Transformation will also partner with the church next door and offer a resident navigator to help future residents reach their goals.

"A full bathroom, a full galley kitchen, washer, dryer, a tiny living room," Benz said.

So far, he says they’ve applied for two shipping containers from former governor Doug Ducey’s makeshift border wall, which was dismantled by the U.S. Department of Justice after they filed a lawsuit claiming the wall was illegal and dangerous. 

Benz hopes to turn them into something positive.

"Most of the people coming in here probably have never had their own bedroom … they are going to have their own space. The point of it is to start changing in here," Benz said.

According to the National Foster Youth Institute, around 20% of young adults who are in care become homeless the moment they turn 18. Nationwide, 50% of the homeless population has spent time in foster care. 

After a foster care child turns 18, they can decide to extend their time in care until age 21 or live independently and receive about $1,200 a month.

"Oftentimes, they fail. They do end up homeless, substance dependent, or incarcerated and so it’s very important for us to be very mindful of that and ensure that we are supporting them before they age out," said Luis De La Cruz, President & CEO of the Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation.

The entire project will cost around $450,000, which includes the salary of the resident navigator.

Benz is looking to raise $12,000 to finish their first shipping container.

Once moved in, residents will pay a low adjustable fee for rent to encourage them to go to school or find work.