Cottages of Hope Update
We tweeted last week that we had some big news at the village and this is it. We are a part of a community-wide effort to do something effective and affordable to help not only our villagers but homeless people across the county.
If you look at the rising problem of homelessness all over the country and especially in Eugene you cannot help but hope there will be a solution and wonder what you or any other individual citizens can do to help solve such an overwhelming problem.
You are not alone. There are many other people out there who care and would happily be part of an affordable practical solution if they could find one.
Here is the good news.
There are other folks, not necessarily government folk, or nonprofit folk, who have been feeling the same way and trying to find a way to do something for a good few years.
And we are grateful to have the honor to be able to play a part in a solution that has been brewing for some time, a solution that your church, business, or organization could easily be a part of too.
And that solution is called “Cottages of Hope.”
Before we get into the details, it is important to give a shoutout to all the work of community members that led up to “Cottages of Hope.”
SHEDS OF HOPE
We all remember the Holiday Farm Fire in 2020 that scorched 173,393 acres across the McKenzie River Valley leaving far too many homeless.
Community members wanted to do something timely and practical that would be appreciated by the displaced families and make a difference. And they did. They built storage sheds so the people who lost their homes would at least have a place to store their only possessions.
One Hope Network, one of the organizations that came together to help survivors of the fire, explains on their website:
“In response to the Holiday Farm Fire, volunteers from 36 churches & community groups, 26 businesses, and 12 Lane County high schools built and gifted 143 8×8 sheds to people who lost their homes.”
It was called “Sheds of Hope.”
John Stapleton of PIVOT architecture, who was, among other things, working with the high school shop teachers and students, explained:
“Short answer is that we all came together around the fire recovery effort, the need to get our students real job skills, and the housing crisis finally getting some resources. My role is primarily as industry support and network connector; putting resources, knowledge, and need in the right place to start to really focus our community efforts on the right inflection point to make a difference.”
You can find out more about Sheds of Hope here:
Sheds of Hope Inspire Cottages of Hope
Later on down the line, seeing how businesses, schools, churches, and government could come together, it was only natural that the participants and organizers began to wonder if a similar solution could be made for the larger and more chronic problem of homelessness in Lane County.
As Kaylee Luna of the One Hope Network put it:
“We respond to an acute crisis because we are prepared for this. We can capture the shed’s heart.”
One of the volunteers involved in the shed effort was a retired business owner and experienced builder named Alan Christensen. On the suggestion of Steve Buss of One Hope Network, he began to think of how an effort similar to the shed effort could be applied to transitional housing for the unhoused.
Alan quickly saw that making housing for people wasn’t that different from making sheds for storage, the shell was the same, and it could be modified to make it transitional housing, a kind of shelter that, while having electricity, is not plumbed and is not on a traditional foundation but can be easily moved, though it is still built to code.
These cottages could still have a lot of similarities to a normal stick-built house, with well-insulated walls, sheetrock, shingled roof, and pretty much everything except plumbing and a foundation, only on a much smaller scale at 8 by 16 feet.
Alan said: “I thought, okay, we’re not the first ones to do this kind of stuff. But on the other hand, it’s a first here, and the need on a level that’s not just, survive, right? You can get an address here. You can get a home base where you can start to build a life and so many services that come here.”
Cottages of Hope Make Their Maiden Voyage at Everyone Village
So Alan got on board, and at that point, he was brought together with our own Pastor Gabe, “Steve says I know the guy that you need to talk to. Yeah, so I got together and started talking with Gabe we came up with that. “
Alan and Gabe decided to make the cottages the next wave of shelter here at the village. We provided a space and carpentry help from our own Amiel, and volunteers to work on the first cottages. The village funded them through our city infrastructure funding, and saw it as a time and place to modify designs and workflow to best serve residents as well as make the whole process easy for outside groups to adopt, fund, and build cottages themselves, hopefully getting the entire shell built in a day or on a weekend.
Everyone Village counts itself lucky that this diverse group of people decided to build the first cottages right here in Everyone Village so we could expand the number of Eugene’s unhoused we could serve.
It began when Alan came to the village with models of the structures he wanted to build for us to look at. He was very friendly and optimistic and at first, it seemed too good to be true. He was very responsive to needs and suggestions and after a while, the building began on the first cottage.
The first shed built took a good bit of time and figuring out to build. It was a valuable exercise though, in that it gave Alan and Amiel time and practice to imagine how the same thing might be done not just by experienced builders, but by volunteers.
Quick look at the inside of a shelter after insulation, before sheetrock:
Working Out the Kinks and Getting the Community Involved
Alan, like many of our humble partners, is slow to take credit for things and quick to give it to others. He made clear to us that the major inspiration for putting together a kind of assembly line approach that would make it easy for volunteers to implement comes from the method Alan Gering of Joy Church used when he was building Sheds of Hope.
Alan says, “He really spearheaded the shed builds. So he’s the one that actually came up with. . . if you’re going to mass produce these, yeah, he set up cut stations, right? If you set it up the rough draft building schematic with easy-to-follow directions.”
In our opinion, Alan is being too darn humble. He presented at a meeting with us and the folks at One Hope Network the idea that as long as you had one experienced builder directing a build, the whole cottage could be built by volunteers, experienced or not in carpentry.
Once you get about six churches, businesses, or organizations to adopt a cottage, the materials can be bought in bulk bringing the cost of building a cottage to under 5000 dollars. The materials, along with a cut list and a simple schematic and simple instructions could be stored as kits here at the village and groups could build the cottages here or take the materials to their own location, as in the example of shop teachers and students taking the lumber to their school.
The more difficult and finicky elements of the build, such as the roof trusses, could be built before groups even pick up the supplies, making it even easier for anyone to adopt a cottage.
Once the main building is done, crew boss Gina gets on with the staining and painting, and they look pretty good:
The whole process has already worked out pretty well, as we have six already built, the beginnings of a neat little neighborhood here on our property. Northwood Christian Church and the Seventh Day Adventist church each came onsite and their volunteers built the shells of their cottages in a day!
Steve Buss of One Hope Network was one of the first to lay out the effectiveness of this approach, detailing how easy it is for any group to adopt a cottage, volunteer for a day or two, and truly impact a problem you see every day. He used the word ‘winsome’ which, annoyingly, I had to look up. Let’s just say it is an attractive proposition for anyone who wants to help pout the less fortunate in some way.
Simple, says Alan:
“What I love to see going forward is these Girl Scout groups or College men’s group or whatever, come down here on a weekend. The roof trusses are already built. And here’s a cut list. Here’s a stack of lumber. And they go through the cut list and have a mentor there that shows them how to mark it, cut it, lay it out and tilt up each wall as you finish it. You know just go through the process. George [a villager] has already built the roof trusses and next thing you know we got a tiny home up. That’s amazing. Honestly in a day. Yeah.”
Raising the first wall:
Grandpa Alan sassing his granddaughter while she roofs. Granddaughter multitasks, continues roofing and sets him straight at the same time:
He is also excited about how this project will help shop students gain experience and do something that helps the community:
“Well, two things they want their kids in what they call an industrial education, like shop and stuff. To get a real experience building something is going to be used. Okay, you know, they can say let’s build this little cabinet for your mom or here’s something that’s actually meeting a need in the community. Okay, what a neat way to engage kids.”
So that’s it. That’s our big news.
And it won’t end with our village. When this catches on, the village will be a hub for giving back by facilitating groups who want to build transitional shelters for other homeless folks around the city and the county and who knows? The state? The country?
We will facilitate purchasing lumber in bulk, store the building kits and premade roof trusses here, and groups who have adopted a cottage came come and build it here on a weekend or take materials away to their own site. This is a model that anyone can do and directly benefits those in need in an immediate and impactful way.
More updates to follow. We will let you know how this thing progresses.
If you think your organization wants to be part of the Cottages of Hope project, contact Pastor Gabe:
firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-206-0427
Let’s close with a couple of images.
This project inspired one villager to create a cheerful illustration of the project.
It also inspired our elder statesman, Dave, 75 years old, to fly his kite over the cottages as a kind of benediction. May he fly it many more times in the coming months.