On the southern edge of downtown Minneapolis, between a busy highway ramp and a transit station, there sits a miniature version of the American Dream.

It's a home so tiny that it could fit into a standard parking space. It's roughly one-fifteenth the size of a typical Minnesota home, yet still has enough space for a sleeping bunk, kitchen sink, refrigerator, folding table with two barstools and a bathroom with shower. The building's roof is topped with enough solar panels to power the home and keep it warm through a Minnesota winter.

The dwelling stands as a monument to the determination and ingenuity of its creator — James MacKenzie, a journeyman electrician from Columbia Heights. MacKenzie was moved to act by the death of his childhood friend and the sight of Native Americans sleeping outside on city streets. Made largely of recycled materials, the home also serves as an emblematic answer to the state's affordable housing crisis and the growing numbers of people living on the streets or in emergency shelters.

"My hope is this will expand our vision of what's possible, because I don't believe there is a single answer to the homelessness crisis," said Michael Goze, chief executive of the American Indian Community Development Corp. (AICDC), which received the home as a donation. "People can touch this [home] and see this and think about whether we can do this on a larger scale."

On a recent morning, a small crowd of Native community members watched in worshipful silence as the forest-green home was wheeled into a parking lot outside the Homeward Bound homeless shelter in Minneapolis. In the coming weeks, the 146-square-foot structure will become a temporary dwelling for a Native person transitioning from the streets or a shelter to permanent housing.

For MacKenzie, 32, the tiny home's delivery marked the end of an emotional journey that was born in tragedy.

On the day after Christmas in 2016, MacKenzie learned that his longtime friend, Jason Peacewind Reum, of Fridley, died at the age of 26 after a seven-year battle with leukemia. MacKenzie had spent much of his childhood hanging out at Reum's home in Fridley, where he and his mother, Solita Reum, a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, taught him about Native culture and spirituality.

Yet because of work and school, the friends had drifted apart in the final year of Reum's life. "I carried an immense amount of guilt and shame associated with his loss," MacKenzie said. "I was self-centered and I didn't really understand the gravity of how limited my time with him was... I felt like I had to do something to honor [Jason's] life."

For a time, he didn't know what that something would be.

Then, in early 2020, MacKenzie began to notice growing numbers of people, particularly Native Americans, living in tents along paths during his bike trips around the Twin Cities. He read about how Minneapolis city leaders had committed tens of millions of dollars — and changed the city's zoning policies — to spur the development of more affordable housing. Yet MacKenzie reckoned it would take years for that housing to appear — too late for the people he saw sleeping in the cold.

"That's when it hit me," he said. "Maybe the solution is to create a low-cost alternative by miniaturizing everything."

MacKenzie threw himself headlong into the task. He quit his job as union electrician, bought an old Bobcat trailer, and began refurbishing it with the help of a friend. Much of the wood and other materials he picked up from construction sites or free off Craigslist. The oak wood that encases the home's water heater comes from an old piano. Windows were donated by MacKenzie's middle-school math teacher. The foam insulation was taken from an elementary school roof.

"It was an adventure every step of the way," he said.

It would take him nine months, 1,400 hours of labor — and nearly his entire personal savings of $22,000 — to complete the self-sustaining home. It sat in his driveway for several months before he donated it to the AICDC, a nonprofit that runs programs for Natives experiencing homelessness and struggling with addiction.

On the morning the home was delivered, MacKenzie carefully placed a plaque dedicated to his friend just above the door. A red recliner that once held Reum's 6-foot-9-inch frame was carried into the living room — a room that soon will be occupied by someone who needs a place to live.

As a soft drizzle fell, Solita Reum was moved to tears as she admired MacKenzie's handiwork for the first time. "This is an act of love," she said. "Nothing else would drive someone to do something this incredibly hard — and this beautiful."