(Photo courtesy of Parr Lumber)
Redmond High School students are reaping twin rewards by helping the houseless and learning valuable construction skills thanks to an initiative with prominent Pacific NW builders Hayden Homes and Parr Lumber.
Through an innovative public-private partnership, Career and Technical Education (CTE) class participants are working on assembling tiny-home type shelters — using Parr’s revolutionary framing-by-numbers “Opti-Frame” system — that will provide transitional living in Redmond’s Oasis Village project.
Home-grown success story Hayden Homes brings design and construction method expertise to the table, while Oregon-based Parr Lumber is generously donating materials and providing instruction on the new manufacturing technology to help make the community vision a reality.
Parr Lumber Regional Sales Manager Levi Means said his company developed the Opti-Frame process as a pre-cut framing package in response to growing demand to make framing more convenient, efficient, eco-friendly and accurate. The idea is that after plans are reviewed, frame packs are pre-cut, pre-labeled and bundled in order of assembly and delivered directly to the jobsite.
The high school construction training program, overseen by instructor Alan Wheeler and assisted by the industry sponsors, is already working on assembling its second 80-square-foot unit and aims to put together two shelters per semester.
“The students initially were way too conservative on how long they thought it would take to build the structure. They thought it might take weeks, but inside a day they had all four walls put together,” Means said. “This is a basic level for the process, but it demonstrates how it works and can be expanded.”
The industry participants are also hopeful the construction training program experience may spark interest among students to consider pursuing a career in the construction industry.
Hayden Homes Vice President of Community Engagement Deborah Flagan said builders needed to do better at selling construction jobs, adding: “As an industry, we need to do a better job of communicating the flexibility and benefits of joining the construction trade. It can offer a good paying living, and this program is a good opportunity to introduce young people to what we do.”
Estimates suggest Oregon is facing a shortage of some 16,000 construction workers, with consequent pressure on maintaining an adequate housing supply.
A lack of affordable housing also has a major impact state-wide. Oregon has one of the highest homeless rates in the U.S., with more than 14,600 people needing stable housing in 2020, a rate of 2.5%. Only Washington state, California, Texas, Florida and New York had higher rates, according to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homeless.
Josh Lehner, from the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, said there was a pressing need to increase the construction workforce, in both the private and public sectors, adding, “If we want to build more units, we have to have more workers.” He said Oregon needs 13,000 more construction workers per year to help close the housing gap and make up for the existing shortfall, but finding those workers in a tight labor market will be challenging. “Looking at existing staffing patterns, obviously the vast majority of the needed workforce will be actual construction workers like carpenters, electricians, laborers, painters and the like, but there will be a need for increased business operations, office support and management type jobs as well to handle the larger workloads,” Lehner continued. He praised the Redmond initiative and the prospect of more programs including internships and apprenticeships to help fill available future jobs.
The High School students involved in building shelters are supporting the efforts of the Oasis Village for a transitional housing community to help houseless people in Redmond
The Deschutes County Commission has already allocated funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act funds towards finding a site, initially for some 10 units, a kitchen, laundry and restroom facilities, and possibly expanding to 20-30 units in the longer term.
The idea for the nonprofit is to establish a place that can help fill the gap in low-barrier shelter access, perceived as currently missing from the Redmond area, and Oasis Village is designed to help give Central Oregon residents an opportunity for long-term shelter, as long as they work toward goals of self-improvement.
As part of its mission statement, it seeks to “create a sustainable Village for those who are seeking shelter but are unable to find it,” adding: “We feel it’s necessary to establish a community-based living facility where people living on the streets or in the Junipers can have their basic needs met in a stable, sanitary environment free from violence, theft and disruption of peace.”
Proponents say Central Oregon is experiencing a gap in services for the unhoused, between tents, makeshift shelters and RV’s — under the heading of houseless camps — and stable housing, with access to permanent housing options near public transit and social services.
Transitional housing such as that envisaged at Oasis Village offers immediate, low-barrier access to shelters — similar to the Veterans Village concept in Bend — leading to income opportunity and the hope of stable housing. Length of stay would be dependent on the availability of affordable housing opportunities and service providers, and guests will be required to make progress toward financial independence and permanent housing. Pets will be allowed and there will be community space for meetings, classes, case management and peer support. Clients participate in community management and maintenance and provide a financial contribution to defray the costs of services.
Oasis Village will be fenced to provide safety, security and privacy for guests. Entry will be gated and monitored and no drugs or alcohol permitted.
Hayden Homes is providing construction oversight and Bob Bohac, Board Chair and Outreach director for project supporter Jericho Road, a nonprofit intent on helping the homeless, said both public and private sector financial assistance was being sought, including potential grant funds. He added that Oasis Village would be “a clean, well-kept and a place that anyone would be proud to live,” with the idea that guests could have a chance to build skills that would lead them to a more stable lifestyle. He also praised the high school CET class for providing young adults with job skills training, and an opportunity to be of service within the community.
The shelter units are based on plans developed by Hayden Homes, with the structures able to be built offsite and transported to the eventual location for installation and finishing work.
“It’s a two-fold benefit of offering community support and giving youth an opportunity to learn marketable construction skills,” Bohac added. “Redmond again comes together to support its neighbors in need, and Oasis Village will work with government, nonprofit, mutual aid and community organizations to build a path towards home for unhoused people in Central Oregon.”
Redmond School District Superintendent Charan Cline said the technical training programs it promotes are designed to focus students on real-world experience and job training for positions in industries where there is high demand.
“Hayden Homes is a long-time business partner of ours in the Pacific North West and when the opportunity arose to get involved in this program, we jumped at the chance to help and it is super rewarding for our team to be involved in such education and mentorship,” added Means.