Make the McKenzie Connection!

"Brighter Future" enters year 2

Construction skills translate into places to live

A project to create “transitional shelters” for people facing tough times is showing signs of success. That assessment was shared last week by students during a celebration at the Everyone Village in Eugene, where people are moving into some of the tiny homes that were constructed at 16 schools around Lane County.

“We got a chance to come out and see everything and what we were directly impacting,” explained Jamie Leclair, a junior at McKenzie High. “I think that made us a lot more motivated to make our next two houses.”

Begun in 2022, the Constructing a Brighter Future program teaches teens to work with their hands while at the same time helping people transition to a more stable living environment. “It’s a great opportunity for students to learn, get a trade, and help out in the community,” Jeanette Brown feels. “I’m so grateful that they put their hands, heart and work into it.”

Brown is looking forward to moving into one of the tiny homes herself, as well as having a space with a porch and room outside for a garden. “I’m excited,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to live in a tiny home. This program is one of the best I’ve ever heard of.”

Jesse Quinn of the Lane Workforce Partnership agrees. “To our knowledge, we have not seen a project in comparison across the country that even comes close.”

In its first year of operation, 190 students participated in building the first starter homes while “gaining experience in construction trades, certification, advancement and opportunities to create apprenticeship programs,” Quinn said.

The program first trains instructors to build the one-room shelters so they lead construction classes. With what they learn in those classes teens can be part of a workforce initiative that introduces young people to the multiple career paths in high-wage/high-demand construction trades work. It also provides them with hands-on, work-based learning opportunities to demonstrate and refine the skills they’ll need for possible future employment.

On the ground, Gabe Piecho-wicz, the lead at Everyone Village, said he was “real confident that what we have here is the makings of a tide-turner. For so many years the housing and homeless crisis has gotten steadily worse.”

Instead, he sees the Constructing a Brighter Future program as a way of “sewing up a critical wound in the community and bringing generations together to work hand-in-hand on solutions.”

“This innovative project is an opportunity not only for students to learn high-wage, high-demand skills that our workforce needs,” according to Shareen Vogel with the Lane Education Service District. “It’s an opportunity for students to make a difference in their community where they live to really connect with a crisis that is happening right in our community.”

In the second year of operation, the program is expanding to expand into grow from 16 to 19 building sites, including middle schools, involving more students. Materials to build the tiny homes range from around $5,700 for an 8 ft. x 12-foot structure to around $7,000 for an 8 x 16-foot home. Those funds come from donations, which can be made via the Lane Workforce website.

Besides Everyone Village, homes are also being installed at the SquareOne Village.


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