Lane students construct homes for the unhoused
Earlier this year, Lane County students hit the nail on the head – chipping away at the unhoused crisis through the “Constructing a Brighter Future Project,” aimed at supporting those in need.
The project, a far-reaching collaborative initiative with Lane Community College, Lane Education Service District (ESD), Lane Workforce Partnership, EveryOne Village, Square One Village and 15 school districts, will build 30 pallet shelters during the school year to be placed in villages across the county. Students across south Lane County, in Creswell, Springfield and Cottage Grove are participating in the shelter build. The project aims to address Lane County’s growing housing shortage and rising number of unhoused individuals.
Led by construction experts and educators, area students are building temporary shelters for individuals experiencing houselessness. The shelters are then connected with those in need through a partnership with community-based transitional housing organizations.
“It makes me feel very proud of Lane County, that in this community we have high school students to support the folks we’re serving in EveryOne Village,” said Gabe Piechowicz, co-founder of Everyone Village. “It really symbolizes the power of what we can do together.”
To create the project’s single-room transitional shelters, Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers from 15 Lane County school districts and LCC worked with builders and designers from community-based organizations that address houselessness, including Square One Village and EveryOne Village.
“The work we are doing at Constructing a Brighter Future not only supports a prioritized community need, but is also a workforce initiative that introduces young people to high demand construction trades through hands-on, work-based learning opportunities,” said Shareen Vogel from Lane County ESD. “Together we are building a system of support to move forward into housing sustainability.”
The CTE instructors then brought the plans into their classrooms and are leading students in the construction process. “This project is really great for the kids because they’re actually getting trained in fundamental construction skills,” said Seth O’Hare, CTE teacher with the Mckenzie School District. “It’s a great feeling for me personally, but it’s even a greater feeling that I can witness my kids taking the pride and building a project that they know will benefit someone in their community.
Jamie LeClair, a sophomore at McKenzie High, said the project not only helps others, but has spurred his interest in construction.
“I think it’s such an important thing, being there for another person so that they are able to have the best living situation that we can give them,” LeClair said. “Building this for the community is a really great thing that we’re able to do and it’s a good experience for us as students.”
With a goal of building 30 shelters from August of 2022 through June of 2023, Constructing a Brighter Future is currently seeking additional support. In addition to funding from Oregon Department of Education CTE Revitalization grant, Lane County Economic Development, Future Ready Oregon Prosperity $10K grant, The Roundhouse Foundation in Sisters, Ore. has provided the group with a $25,000 matching grant to help boost the impact of future community donations.
“Constructing a Brighter Future is a perfect example of bringing together multiple groups in one community to address a very acute need, including educators and students,” Erin Borla, executive director and trustee at The Roundhouse Foundation said. “It creates a foundation of learning for students in the region’s rural communities to help those in need, while simultaneously gaining valuable, trade-based skills for multiple career pathways.”
Kevin Martin, a resident at EveryOne Village, called the project a, “great learning experience for the younger generation,” and says living at EveryOne Village brought him a newfound sense of security and home.
“It means all the world to me, to have something permanently there,” said Martin. “I have a place to return home to. It makes me feel prouder everyday.”