Story by Vickie Aldous, Medford Mail Tribune
They’re not professional homebuilders, but volunteers from the Medford Rogue Rotary Club are putting the finishing touches on four tiny houses for homeless people. “For us non-contractor-type people, this was a big project,” club member Rick Clark said Thursday as those around him painted trim and siding, cut wood and drilled front porch floorboards into place. “We’re all hackers and do-it-yourselfers at home.”
The four tiny houses will be the latest additions at Hope Village, a Medford transitional living site run by the shelter and housing group Rogue Retreat. Hope Village has 34 tiny houses already. Each one is designed to pair up with another house, forming miniature duplexes.
Rotary members started building the four tiny houses back in February without knowing exactly how long it would take. “It’s like putting pieces of a puzzle together. It’s been fun. We’ve been inefficient because we didn’t have all the right tools,” Clark said.
The amateurs have had some help from the pros. Andy Batzer of Medford-based construction company JB Steel drew up plans for the tiny houses. Bill Thorndike of Medford Fabrication donated the use of a warehouse-sized building so the volunteers could build while protected from the weather. The building comes equipped with a crane the volunteers used to lift roofing materials into place.
To make sure the roofs don’t leak, a pro is installing flashing to direct water away from joints.
Companies donated materials or provided discounts, and the volunteers pitched in some of their own supplies along with their time. All the cooperation means the Rotary club has spent about $20,000 to build all four tiny houses, rather than the $90,000 to $100,000 it would normally cost, Clark said.
Each house is well insulated and comes with wiring so a person living there can run a heater. Solar panels power the low energy-use basics such as lights and cellphone charging. A loft provides storage, and windows in the small living room/bedroom area let in the sunlight.
The tiny houses don’t have bathrooms or kitchens, but Hope Village has shared facilities for cooking, bathrooms, showering and laundry. Clark said the houses provide transitional living so people escaping homelessness can stay clean, eat and have their own address. For him, aiding homeless people is personal.
“I had a sister, and she was homeless. She died on the streets,” he said.
Medford Rogue Rotary Club member Bob Hunter, a former Mail Tribune editor, said many people have a misconception that the main activity of Rotary clubs is to get together for lunch meetings. “Projects are more what Rotary is about than the meetings,” he said, noting Rotary projects have ranged from installing water filters in Guatemala to supporting a basketball program at Kids Unlimited in Medford for local elementary school students.
Building tiny houses fits into Rotary’s mission to carry out projects that help communities near and far, Hunter said. “What attracts me to it is that it’s hands-on. You can stand back and see the results,” he said.
Medford Rogue Rotary Club member Pat Barry said he was inspired to help build the tiny houses after getting a tour of Rogue Retreat’s Hope Village. “From what I saw, the people at Rogue Retreat have a real compassion for the people they’re helping. They invest a lot of time and resources into helping people,” Barry said. “If they can make that effort, I can do what I can to help a little.”