Camosun carpentry students are putting their skills to work to tackle homelessness in Greater Victoria. Over the past several weeks, a student team has been busy constructing an 8×10-foot prototype micro-house for Choices Transitional Home, run by Our Place Society.
“It is a great fit for us in the carpentry department because every Level 1 apprentice and every foundation student needs to build a floor, walls and a roof in order to satisfy the practical competencies of the program,” said Camosun’s Architectural Trades chair Al van Akker. “If we build micro-houses, we will achieve all of our curricular requirements, and could make a measurable contribution to the most needy in our community.”
With appropriate funding and planning, van Akker says that Camosun carpentry students could construct up to 100 micro-houses per year.
“Right now at Choices, there are 30 tents in their courtyard. We’d like to replace those with micro-houses, which will be a lot more suitable for the wet and cold weather that will be coming in a few months.”
Our Place executive director Don Evans agrees. “We are thrilled to have the micro-house prototype constructed by Camosun students at Choices,” he says. “I see micro-houses as a viable option for people experiencing homelessness because they are cost effective and take up little space. There can be opportunities to place them in different locations such as church parking lots or vacant land.”
The micro-house solution is not a permanent one, but it can provide a bridge between a tent in a park and a permanent home. A similar initiative at Opportunity Villiage in Eugene, Ore. has proven successful at addressing homelessness and related issues in that community.
Evans envisions an important role for the Choices facility as part of a lasting solution to homelessness here in Greater Victoria.
“For the next eight months, Choices will be used for transitioning people from the street into permanent housing. Over the long term, we would like to see Choices developed into a recovery centre for people struggling with mental health and addictions,” he says.
Choices Transitional Home in View Royal was opened by Our Place in February 2016 to provide housing for 50 homeless people who were previously living at the tent city on the lawn of the provincial courthouse. The repurposed facility provides both indoor and outdoor housing options.
Our Place is a unique inner-city community centre serving Greater Victoria’s most vulnerable: working poor, impoverished elderly, mentally and physically challenged, addicted and the homeless. They serve over 1,600 meals per day and provide hot showers, free clothing, counseling and outreach services, plus 45 transitional housing units.
Volunteers, financial and clothing donations are always needed. “We are also looking for sponsors of the new micro-houses,” notes Evans. “Cost is about $2,000 per home.”