Edmonds School District students make tiny house for homeless through carpentry class

Edmonds School District instructor Randy Sibley (right) and Lynnwood High School junior Frank Gougouehi (left) discuss techniques for cutting pieces for a staircase on April 27. This residential house is another project, sponsored by the Lynnwood Rotary Club, that is currently under construction in Edmonds through a carpentry vocational program called Career and Technical Education. (Photo by Keiko DeLuca)

Carpentry students from Edmonds School District’s Career and Technical Education program combined their craft with community service to lend a helping hand to Seattle’s homeless this spring. For several months, the students put their strengths together to create a tiny house for the 2017 CTE Showcase of Skills.

The local group was one of 23 teams of vocational students from high schools, colleges and technical schools around the state to participate.

The Workforce Board created the competition as an opportunity for students to demonstrate their skills for a good cause. Their goal was to show policymakers in Olympia, including Governor Jay Inslee, the values of technical education and the many ways it can directly give back to a community. It was held on the Capitol Campus March 27. With the event, organizers aimed to create a space where students to could use their skills to support vulnerable members of society.

The board also used the occasion to educate participants on the region’s fast-growing homeless problem.

In 2016, the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness counted 10,688 on the street through their annual One Night Count. The rate of homelessness is also increasing in Snohomish County. This year’s Point in Time count shows a 9 percent increase in homelessness over last year, with a total of 515 homeless people counted.

A new model that has caught on in some areas is a village of tiny houses that provide a stable and more permanent shelter for the homeless. The tiny house created for the competition will be sent to Licton Springs in North Seattle, a tiny house village created by the Low Income Housing Institute.

The North Seattle area has poor service when it comes to helping the homeless according to Bradford Gerber, LIHI’s Essential Needs Coordinator. It will be a low-barrier site, meaning that it will not require sobriety from its residents. Many shelters make sobriety a requirement, but doing so makes it difficult for those struggling with substance abuse to get the help they need.

“It’s just been an attempt at widening the audience that can stay in these camps. So it’s more inclusive and that there are more options for everybody,” Gerber said.

During the competition, the organizers brought in speakers to illustrate what homelessness looks like in Seattle. For many of the students, it was their first time learning about the experiences of people who have faced homelessness.

“When we were down there doing the tiny house project, they had some homeless people speak at the event, like during lunch and I think they made it much more real,” carpentry instructor Randy Sibley said.

Sibley, who works for the Edmonds School District, was contacted by CTE program director Mark Madison to take the opportunity to show students how their skills can affect people’s lives. Sibley combines his construction knowledge and his degree in philosophy when teaching his students and felt that the competition was the perfect occasion to bring his lessons to life.

Edmonds School District CTE students with the tiny house they built earlier this year. (Photo courtesy Lynnwood Rotary)

During the competition, Sibley took a step back and encouraged them to get more involved in all areas of construction. As part of the project, the students reached out to companies to gather tools, materials, and other donations, considering the potential needs of a house, and working efficiently as a team.

“I was really surprised because I got a much better response in some ways than I expected. That they were much more willing to go out and ask for stuff,” Sibley said.

For Pedro Perez, a junior from Edmonds-Woodway High School, much of the process was brand new and intimidating. Like many of his peers, he struggled with asking for donations from suppliers.

“Talking to sponsors was really hard. Trying to get them to donate stuff for us,” Perez said, adding that every piece of equipment had to be donations from other companies.

Eventually, he was successful in striking a deal with Flint Construction. Sibley says that the ability to negotiate and sell their skills is crucial to their future success.

“I was really surprised because I got a much better response in some ways than I expected. That they were much more willing to go out and ask for stuff,” Sibley said.

On the day of the competition, the team demonstrated their skills by presenting their 12 feet by 8 feet house. Once it was built, each team customized their house by painting designs and adding some additional features.

“It looked nice. It looked like they were enjoying the new houses,” Mountlake Terrace High School senior Tucker Burk said. “I’m just glad that it happened and to help the greater Seattle area.”

The Licton Springs site began accepting residents on April 5.

–By Keiko DeLuca
This story was produced through our partnership with UW Newslab.



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