Community, Cottage Grove, Creswell, Education, Here to Help, Pleasant Hill, Springfield

CTE program tackling Oregon’s homeless

Students across middle, high schools helping construct sheds, cottages, planters, and more

Although Constructing a Brighter Future has rebranded itself as Team Oregon Build, a new name doesn’t mean a new direction for the program.

In fact, it will be doubling down on its mission – to address the homeless crisis by building single-room, transitional shelters for unhoused people while providing youth the education and hands-on practice to later enter high-wage, high-demand construction trades – as it expands to reach all nooks and crannies of Oregon.

These shelters are delivered to local housing sites, like Eugene’s Everyone Village.

“When someone comes in Everyone Village, they’re coming from a season of homelessness, and they’ve lost literally everything – not just material possessions and a home, also their self worth, value, and ability to engage in good relationships and have community,” said Gabe Piechowic, co-leader of Everyone Village. “As they come into the village and begin engaging with students who are building their cottages and middle schoolers who are building their garden beds and picnic tables, they are automatically infused into a family.

“When those interactions take place, you can see brightness in their eyes go up, their smile gets bigger, their back gets straighter, and their pride rises as they recognize ‘I’m not alone in my journey. Not only am I not alone, but unexpectedly, now I have a community I never even knew existed.’”

The program is now expanding beyond Lane County thanks to state funding. As of June 17, the program has reached 37 schools within 11 counties, and only 12 of those schools are within Lane.

The Oregon Department of Education awarded $2.6 million in grant funding to Lane Education Service District and Southern Oregon Education Service District to expand its existing Career and Technical Education programs. Lane ESD and SOESD then partnered with Mid-Willamette Educational Consortium to create and pilot TOB: “an innovative partnership between education, industry, state, and community to introduce youth to career pathways within high-wage and high-demand construction trades.”

TOB works with high school CTE programs to construct the shelters, which are cottages and sheds, and it includes middle school CTE programs on other projects like building benches, planters, and tables.

“(TOB) needs to spread because all communities in Oregon are struggling with homelessness and housing, and all communities have amazing high schools and middle schools full of students who want a relevant experience to help their community and learn great job skills,” Piechowicz said.

“As high schools join this effort by ordering kits to build these cottages, we then go into that community and help sew all this awesomeness together to create a dynamic approach to a gnarly problem.

“There’s success in Lane County, so presumably, communities across Oregon, you’re next! As you adopt Team Oregon Build, you’ll start seeing the amazing fruit we’ve already seen in Lane County from this program.”

As of June 17, this pilot program already has 116 total order submissions from across the state for different structures, such as cottages, sheds, and cottage accessories like benches. Almost 80% of these orders are from outside Lane ESD.

“We couldn’t be happier, more proud. I’m not crying because I already cried about it. It’s so beautiful and powerful,” Piechowicz said. “This village, this dynamic program, is the centerpoint for this collective impact program Team Oregon Build. It once was a barren lot where people would camp illegally. Now it’s an epicenter of hope.

“As we expand Team Oregon Build across the state, across the Northwest, across the country, we’ll begin seeing more beautiful locations, that once were down and out, full of life and intermixed families of students and community partners and clients receiving services.

“These stories of hope and flourishing from places we never thought possible are only because, together, we’re lifting it all at once.”

This program has reached about 5,000 CTE students so far. One of those students – Cassy Fisher, former Briggs Middle School 8th grader and incoming freshman at Springfield High – said this ODE funding is great because the school wasn’t paying for the wood. CTE instructor Joe Hass was, and now he doesn’t have to.

“Team Oregon Build builds more community around this area, and we really need that right now,” Cassy said. “It also helps people in 8th grade commit to the community more before they’re in high school. It’s really a privilege to have an 8th grader work (on a project like this).

“This is my first time doing something for the community, and it feels really great that we helped this place. I want to go there with my parents to show them what we did.”

Above: Briggs Middle School’s CTE class, taught by Joe Hass, contributed to Team Oregon Build by building cottage accessories like planters.

Hass highlighted the significance of having youth work on a project for community betterment, not personal use. Another former 8th grader from Briggs and incoming freshman at Springfield, Lane Farrester, emphasized this.

“It’s been nice being able to do my part, giving back to the community A lot of the stuff I made before these planter boxes, I don’t really use. I made a cutting board. We use it sometimes, but it’s not really that important,” Lane said. “These are actually going somewhere where they’ll be used all the time, and they have a purpose.”

Giving students who aren’t heading to a four-year college the resources to go into construction and other trades is important to Hass, who mentioned that his high school woodshop experience was cut short since the program went away for a while.

David Fambrini, Everyone Village resident, wanted to build houses and make a difference when he was in high school woodshop classes, but he never got to do that. He thinks it’s “fabulous” that students in CTE programs get the chance to “participate in somebody else’s well-being.”

Everyone Village resident Laura Hart said the TOB team members “probably get a lot out of” this program. For one, it allows youth in CTE programs to engage in advanced, practical construction. And they’re also able to see the direct impacts their work has on real people.

“I’m grateful for (my home). It’s way different than living in a tent, so I’m just appreciative,” Hart said. “I was excited when I got to move from my pallet into this, and now I get to watch other people who have been here for a while be excited. They’re like, ‘I get a house now!’ (TOB) makes a difference, and it’s wonderful to see.

“There are a lot of people here who were out there for a long time, struggling and moving every day. To be able to start winding down into a normal type of life and (have) something to come home to with a locked door and the security of a home- I’m sure (the TOB team) sleeps well at night.”



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