Community, Creswell, Here to Help

Mobile, home

One bike at a time, citizen innovation helping shelter Creswell’s unhoused

CRESWELL – Change doesn’t always come from a top-down solution. In fact, bottom-up solutions make noticeable differences in our communities.

Creswell residents Bill Kent and Ed Gunderson have taken a creative approach to help shelter the City’s unhoused population by building Conestoga huts to provide unhoused people a safe place to sleep.

“It wasn’t a big grant coming in to a big housing builder which takes years to get something done,” Kent said. “In a short period of time, we’ve gotten two people off the street.”

Kent and Gunderson are allowing unhoused people to occupy these huts through the use of “contracts.” They are on wheels and can be attached to bikes, so the huts can be moved to abide by City code that states vehicles must move two blocks every 72 hours. The huts also have a boot which locks it in place.

“We wanted it to be moveable, but not until we said move it,” Gunderson joked.

Some of the huts’ amenities include:

• A peep hole in the front door

• A window which opens and meets all size requirements for evacuation

• An insulation layer and waterproofing

• A solar, motion-sensored light on top of the hut

Bill Kent (left) and Ed Gunderson (second from left) created an innovative way to get Creswell’s unhoused people into safer situations. The duo’s moveable huts were praised by city councilor Norma Jean Osborn (second from right) and unhoused Creswellian Christina Allen (right).

Gunderson said it feels good to have such a direct impact on Creswell’s unhoused community. He said he knows about six to eight unhoused people in Creswell who may be couchsurfing or enduring a domestic abuse situation.

“A lot of people who are homeless in Creswell are internally displaced people. They’re generally (from Creswell and) displaced in Creswell, and they don’t have any place to go,” Kent said. “They are our own people. Their social connections are here, and they have no place to be.

“There’s a park (Cinderella Park) beside the City dump that no one will touch, but homeless people will go sleep in the park, and a girl was sleeping out there. I met her because the guy running the dump said she was out there sleeping. She didn’t have a tent; she didn’t have a tarp, and he was thinking about buying her a tarp. I ended up meeting her, and she was the kind of homeless person who had a place to stay, but you get in a fight with your boyfriend, and you were out. Maybe next week you’re in. The week after you’re out. Tenuous relationships can leave a person out.”

Christina Allen, 46, is a longtime Creswell resident who has been unhoused for 19 years. She is one of two unhoused people in Creswell who have received a hut from Kent and Gunderson.

“It’s better than a tent, that’s for sure,” Allen joked. “When the wind blows, the tent walls cave in, and I get claustrophobic and freak out.”

Allen has no reason to fear the wind with the hut, and her dog Junior and she can experience a sense of safety while no longer battling Oregon’s quickly-changing weather. Allen and Junior are able to stay warm on cold nights thanks to a converter heater and the walls around her.

The interior of the hut that Christina Allen and her dog Junior occupy. Allen has been unhoused for almost two decades.

Safe and secure

The hut’s walls have also provided Allen with safety from more than the weather.

“Security is the biggest thing about being homeless,” Kent said. “If you leave for the day to go somewhere, your tent, everything you own, is ransacked by the time you get back.”

Kent hopes that, once enough huts are built, unhoused people may feel strength in numbers and gain some neighbors by parking their huts close to each other.

“It’s like you have someone watching your back,” Kent said.

Finding a balance

City councilor Norma Jean Osborn said she doesn’t think a homeless camp in Creswell would be an appropriate solution to address the City’s unhoused population because it would not be fair to all Creswell residents, and the City would not be able to sustain it. She commended Kent and Gunderson for their innovative solution.

“I want to find a balance between taking care of the whole community and taking care of this small part of that community so that everyone’s safe, and everyone will have a good life, but it’s hard to balance that,” she said.

In lieu of an address, Bill Kent and Ed Gunderson added this small touch to the front of the hut to note the City’s 72-hour rule.

City manager Michelle Amberg also praised Kent and Gunderson, and she noted that people with these huts on wheels must still follow City code.

The code protects the City’s right-of-way and requires it to be kept clear of any debris and materials at all times. This means bicycles cannot be parked in the right-of-way. The easy solution? To comply with the code, people just need to lock their bicycles in a bike rack rather than store them next to their huts.

Amberg said it would be nice if the huts had shelving so all belongings that are outside the hut can be safely secured, and Allen agreed that shelving would be a nice touch for future huts.

Christina Allen and Junior.

Fundraising effort

Kent started a GoFundMe to raise money for the building materials Gunderson and he need to continue building huts, which are purchased from local businesses like Tractor Supply Co., Jerry’s Home Improvement, and Cascade Home Center.

Kent and Gunderson originally estimated it would cost $1,200 to buy the materials they need to build a hut. In reality, it takes them about $1,500.

The link to donate is: More than $1,500 has been donated as of April 16. As Kent and Gunderson get in the rhythm of building huts consistently, they hope to bring down the cost.

Kent said he plans to build huts as long as there are unhoused people in Creswell who would benefit from them, and he clarified that he is not encouraging unhoused people to move to Creswell.

The duo is open to sharing their hut models with others – inside and outside of Creswell. Since they do not intend on selling the huts, Kent said the information is not proprietary, and he would happily share what materials are needed as well as information on how to build it.

Editor’s Note:

Contact Kent or Gunderson for more information; Kent can be reached at 425-208-1383 or [email protected], and Gunderson can be reached at 541-743-5681 or [email protected].



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