Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Sept. 22, 2021

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Huts give homeless new hope in Vancouver

Small shelters provide those in need safety from the elements

By , Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith

Twelve homeless people living in downtown Vancouver are going to be drier and safer this fall. Huts for Hope is building 12 portable shelters for people who are camping in tents and tarps near Share House at 12th Street and Lincoln Avenue thanks to $4,200 from an anonymous donor.

Dorothy Rodriguez, who’s been helping local homeless people, got the check Tuesday and broke the news to several pregnant women who will soon have a roof over their heads.

“Several of them cried. It’s like telling them they got a new apartment,” Rodriguez said. “I just think that it’s a huge step in the right direction.”

Going from a tent to a solid, lockable shelter means the women will be guarded from the elements and from predators.

The donation came about after Rodriguez met Vancouver City Council candidate Ty Stober at a rally in front of City Hall last month. Last week, she gave Stober a tour of the homeless encampment and told him about Huts for Hope, a nonprofit based in Long Beach. Rodriguez and other volunteers had pulled together donations and gotten a few huts built. She hopes to someday have a hut for every homeless person and a safe lot to park them all.

“If they’re not getting apartments they need some kind of shelter,” Rodriguez said.

Stober later met with a friend and told him about the efforts to help homeless people downtown.

“They were very touched by the situation, they were very touched by Dorothy’s dedication to serving these people, and wanted to do something very tangible to help the situation,” Stober said.

Rodriguez identified 12 people who immediately needed a safer, more permanent structure: six pregnant women, four elderly people and two people with severe mental health issues.

“The weather is going to change here and we want to get them into a safer, more comfortable situation as quickly as possible,” Stober said.

The donation covers the materials needed to build the shelters. Huts for Hope, and any other volunteers they can pull together, will donate the labor.

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“We can make them incredibly lightweight now,” said Jerad Nichols, the founder of Huts for Hope. “That way if they ever have to move from where they are it’s easy to pull them around.”

The newer huts are made of fiberglass and wood and take about two days to construct. Some have cupboards or storage in the floorboards. All of them have locking tires, a window and a locking front door.

Nichols knows firsthand how much of a difference four walls can make. The 32-year-old lived out of a tent with his mother for a year before they were able to move to a shack.

“Having a roof and some walls was a huge improvement,” he said.

After getting back on his feet, Nichols wanted to provide homeless people with portable shelters and the idea picked up steam — as well as funding. He’s working on the ninth hut. A handful of regular volunteers, including an experienced carpenter, help build the shelters in his garage on the Long Beach Peninsula.

Nichols plans to move operations to Vancouver, once he finds a place to live. He was born in Vancouver and has lived here off and on throughout his life, before moving to Long Beach to take care of his grandparents. Nichols sees an opportunity to help more people in his hometown.

“I wish we could actually build people full houses they could live in. At least we’re offering some kind of refuge,” he said.

Lloyd Dodge was one of the first people to get a hut, which he inherited from a homeless person who secured housing.

“It keeps me warm at night and safe,” Dodge said.

The 51-year-old is able to store some belongings inside the hut, which has a shelf and a window with a curtain. His other belongings are tied to the top. He can wheel the whole shelter around if needed, though his is an older model, heavier and made from wood. Insulation keeps in the heat and blocks some of the noise.

“During the winter I do believe it will work just fine because it holds in the body heat,” Dodge said.

Those who get a hut are expected to give it to another person once they find permanent housing.

Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith