A focus at this year’s BRING Home and Garden Tour on Sunday, September 10 is how local nonprofits are bringing sustainable housing to low-income people. Because eco-friendly materials and systems are often more expensive than their conventional counterparts, we typically think of green housing as only being available to people with resources. But working families, veterans, people with disabilities and homeless youth also deserve to live in high-quality, healthy homes that tread lightly on the earth. It’s exciting to see this happening in the Eugene-Springfield area.
The Youth House, developed by St. Vincent de Paul, is one project that showcases how green homes can be affordable to people at all income levels. The local nonprofit is “recycling” a former church on Willamette Street into studio apartments for young women between 16 and 18. Residents in the target age range can stay as long as they remain in school. By keeping the existing building instead of tearing it down, St. Vincent de Paul will greatly decrease the amount of waste sent to our landfill.
The other affordable housing development featured on this year’s tour is Emerald Village Eugene (EVE), a community of micro-homes for people transitioning out of homelessness. The project, supported by SquareOne Villages, will feature 22 homes for adults, many of whom are currently living in Eugene’s Opportunity Village.
The majority of the homes in EVE are being donated by local designer-builder teams. Two are being spearheaded by student teams, including the innovative ReachOUT House. The house is the brainchild of Lyndsey Deaton, a Ph.D. student in the University of Oregon’s architecture program. Deaton has a keen interest in homelessness and wanted to design a house with the needs and desires of future residents in mind.
As part of her dissertation research, she and research partner Christina Bollo interviewed people experiencing homelessness and asked them what they’d want in a permanent home. Many of the features they described will be included in the ReachOUT House.
“A lot of people told her they wanted a bathtub,” explains Paige Portwood, a public policy, planning and management master’s student and member of the three-person leadership team that also includes architecture student Samantha Freson. “At missions they can only take brief showers. A bathtub symbolizes relaxation and safety.”
Homeless people tend to live in very cramped spaces like cars or single-room apartments, Portwood says. Although the ReachOUT House is only 180 square feet, it’s designed to have an open and spacious feel.
EVE is intended to be a close-knit community, and Deaton designed the ReachOUT House with that in mind. The living space has French doors that lead to an outdoor living space and the common area. This will make socializing and gatherings more convenient.
Deaton and her team are committed to using recycled materials in the house whenever possible. They estimate that 70 percent of the building materials – including the wood, windows, interior finishes and paint – are post-consumer products, many of which were donated by or purchased at BRING. The home is designed to consume 45 percent less energy and 30 percent less water than a typical tiny house.
“Micro-housing is already using less materials and leaving a small footprint on the earth,” the group shares in their promotional materials. “The ReachOUT House wants to make the eco-friendly gap even smaller with the innovative and creative use of recycled goods.”
Much of the labor for the ReachOUT House will be donated by University of Oregon students. Portwood emphasizes that the leadership team is interested in engaging students from Lane Community College’s construction program, Oregon State University’s engineering school, or anyone else who would like to get involved in a meaningful and worthwhile project.
Construction on the house will begin in September and is expected to be finished by October. EVE has already interviewed and selected tenants for the property, so Portwood and her team already know who will occupy their house: a 66-year-old woman named Alice Gentry who has lived in Opportunity Village for the past year.
“That’s where we get our motivation – the knowledge that we’re giving her a house,” Portwood says, ebullient at the knowledge that in a world filled with some many problems, her time and effort really can make a difference in a person’s life.
Professionals willing to donate services are encouraged to contact the volunteers at ReachOUT House through their Facebook page. The leadership team is hoping to secure onsite construction managers who can lead students at a couple of key times during the construction process.
Anyone willing to support this project financially can make a donation through ReachOUT House’s YouCaring account. Portwood offers thanks to the Rotary District 5110, Rotary E-Club of the State of Jefferson (D5110) and other local Rotary Clubs, which have made significant donations of money and volunteer labor.
Don’t miss the ReachOUT House, Youth House and other homes, gardens and businesses on the ninth annual BRING Home and Garden Tour on Sunday, September 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are available online or at the Planet Improvement Center, Down to Earth and Lane Forest Products.