Three tiny houses bolted on trailers are under construction by at-risk youths at the New Market Skills Center.
The 70-square-foot mobile sleeping quarters are designed to shelter homeless people and will be used by Camp Quixote residents until the homeless tent encampment camp secures a permanent home.
The homes will be on display for the public at one of the 20 stops in the South Sound Green Tour 2011 April 16-17, a free event that features environmentally friendly buildings, workshops and an eco-exhibition for consumers.
In 2010, the first-year event organized by the South Sound chapter of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild drew some 2,000 visitors to 12 sites around South Sound where green-building practices were on display.
“We’re getting on a roll,” guild chapter education coordinator Chris van Daalen said. “We’re really reaching out to the mainstream consumer.”
Green builders also have teamed up with advocates for the homeless to show how a small sleeping unit can be built in a sustainable way.
Jill Severn, chairwoman of Panza, the interfaith group that supports Camp Quixote, summed up the partnership in three words:
“It’s quintessential Olympia.”
The carpenters for the three tiny houses are students in Community Youth Services' YouthBuild Project, a nearly $1 million program funded primarily with federal economic-recovery money and a U.S. Department of Labor grant.
The students, many of whom had fallen behind or dropped out of high school, are learning green-building techniques while helping to construct housing for low-income people.
“The coolest part of the project is the fact we’re building home for the homeless community,” said Aubrey Taylor, an 18-year-old from Tenino enrolled in the project, which runs the entire school year and includes classroom studies part of each day at school.
The students are learning life skills such as the importance of showing up to work on time, teamwork and problem-solving, instructor Matt Newton said.
“We use carpentry as a hook to involve the students,” he said.
The tiny-homes project started the fall with 28 students who qualified for the program and passed a three-week boot camp of sorts to prove they had what it takes to stick with it. Twenty-two students remain, and three of the students were homeless when they started the program. Two of them have homes now, Newton said.
The mobile sleeping units feature several green-building features, Newton said. The lumber used in construction is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which assures the wood was grown, harvested and manufactured in a sustainable way.
The insulation is free of fiberglass, and the paint has a low content of volatile organic compounds. Each unit includes a skylight for a little bit of solar heat.
The sleeping quarters were mounted on trailers approved for highway use because the project began before Thurston County offered property in the Mottman Road area for a permanent site, Severn noted. Several churches have been hosting temporary tent cities for the homeless for the past four years.
“The camps have been moving every 60 to 90 days,” Newton said. “That’s why we built the tiny homes on trailers.”“We’ll use the tiny homes while we’re still an intinerant camp,” Severn said. She said they’ll also be useful for fundraising activities to show people the type of sleeping quarters that will be used in a permanent Camp Quixote.
In addition, New Market’s future students in the construction trades could end up building the tiny homes installed at the permanent camp, Severn said.
Meanwhile, the fledgling carpenters will be on hand at the South Sound Green Tour site at the Fertile Ground Community Center, 311 Ninth Ave. S.E., Olympia, in two weeks to talk to the public about their project and do some finish work on the units too.
The students share another common goal: They all want to visit one of their occupied tiny houses wherever they end up down the road.
John Dodge: firstname.lastname@example.org