Joe Cole and his family have lived in Carlsbad for five years. During that time, a U.S. Marine, a woman from Mozambique, a guy from New Hampshire, and a dreadlocked man from Georgia have lived with them. Well… not in their home.
Those guests have lived in a Sioux-style teepee in their backyard for up to a year at a time.
“No rent. No utilities. No strings attached,” said Joe Cole.
Cole said it’s not a social experiment. It’s not a charity. He said the idea just… sort of… happened.
He said his family was talking with a young couple who hit the proverbial wall. Times were tough. Together they concocted the idea of erecting a teepee in the Cole’s Carlsbad backyard and letting the couple stay in there for free.
“Take a break and refocus. That would change the course of your life,” said Cole, a spiritual director.
The couple moved out after a year and a new one moved in. Then another year and another person. Five straight years. They don’t place ads. The teepee is not on Airbnb.
“We don’t have any of that. It just happens,” he said.
Cole said those people came into his life when they needed a break, they needed some help, or they needed a chance to reconnect on another level. He said his family has benefited from the experience as well.
“I think it changed all of them and it changed us. I think it changed the trajectory of their life," he said.
The teepee has electricity and some furnishings. Guests use the bathroom and kitchen inside the Cole household. He admitted it has been stressful at times, but it has easily been a great experience overall.
His last guest just left last month. Cole thought that gives him an opportunity to fix the teepee, which has been slowly deteriorating in the San Diego sun and weather.
Cole created his first GoFundMe page to replace the canvas and the teepee’s wooden base.
He wants to continue giving people a break. He wants to continue giving people a chance.
“I hope it never ends,” he said.