Victoria Group aims to build wagon-inspired shelters for the homeless

Huts are warmer and more substantial than a tent and have been used in cities across the United States, most notably Eugene, Oregon, where around 200 huts provide temporary shelter.

Krista Loughton takes one step closer to her dream of providing inexpensive shelters for homeless people.

Loughton is part of a group called the Community Alliance for Sheltering Alternatives which hopes to build “Conestoga” huts – named after the Conestoga wagons that transported pioneers across the United States to the Western States – for the homeless. Great Victoria shelter.

On Monday, the group’s fundraising campaign raised $ 5,300, more than enough to build a prototype of the round-roof hut. “We want to show people that it works,” Loughton said.

Huts are warmer and more substantial than a tent and have been used in cities across the United States, most notably Eugene, Oregon, where around 200 huts provide temporary shelter.

Each hut has 60 square feet of living space and a door that locks.

“It gives them a home base where they can protect their belongings,” Loughton said. “Homeless people are handcuffed to their belongings. They can’t really get things done. Most people don’t understand what a barrier to improving your life is. You cannot leave your sleeping bag and tent unattended.

While he has the money, the biggest challenge the group faces is finding a location for the first hut, Loughton said.

Because this is a community initiative, the huts must go on private property.

Loughton said the ideal location is a church parking lot. “My dream is to have one in every church parking lot in the Capital Regional District.”

The first Conestoga cabin will be built for a homeless man and his dog, Lulu, who sleep on Government Street despite the snow and freezing temperatures.

The team seeks help from individuals, businesses and churches. They are looking for owners who are willing to host a single hut for a predetermined period of time, preferably in a location with a public toilet nearby. They are also looking for groups of four volunteers to work as “settlement support teams” to help connect people to services.

The idea is to start small with a hut to house one person and build on that, Loughton said.

“The great hope is that we do another, and another, and another, and very quickly we would get there,” she said. “We attract volunteers. “

On Salt Spring Island, members of the Wagon Wheel Housing Society, a grassroots organization committed to ending poverty, hunger, homelessness and isolation, built a Conestoga hut as a pilot project to show that ‘they could safely isolate the homeless during the pandemic.

The hut was on display in the Country Grocer parking lot in the summer of 2020 and was then moved to private property to provide housing for a farm worker, who pays the company $ 50 per month.

“We can build more,” said Cherie Geauvreau of the housing company.

“It’s a wonderful thing. You are safe, warm and dry and you wake up happy. You have a lockable door and a ventilation window, a built-in bed and storage space and you can have your dog there.

Victoria businessman Rob Reid, owner of Frontrunners Victoria and New Balance Victoria and a member of the group supporting the Greater Victoria initiative, said in the midst of a cold winter, vulnerable people deserve a place dry and safe where to live.

“It’s time we started talking about the crisis and did something,” he said.

Another CASA member Calen McNeil, co-owner of Zambri’s and Big Wheel Burger, said the Conestoga huts are a proven model that has worked in other cities.

“I fully support the construction of a prototype Conestoga hut that can be used to inspire a new model of shelter to address the homelessness crisis in the region,” McNeil said.

Watch the group’s promotional video on youtube.com/watch?v=d1Ft0zuMNO8.

Anyone interested in getting involved in the Community Alliance for Sheltering Alternatives program can email casagreervictoria@gmail.com.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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