Volunteers begin another build of shelters for unhoused

Structures will go to Caswell-Brown Village near Port Townsend

Retired contractor Dave Merrill of Sequim uses a nail gun Wednesday to demonstrate the proper and safe nailing technique to a group of 14 Community Build volunteers who will soon build 10 tiny homes on property owned by New Life Church in Port Townsend. The houses will go to the Caswell-Brown Village managed by Olympic Community Action Programs. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Retired contractor Dave Merrill of Sequim uses a nail gun Wednesday to demonstrate the proper and safe nailing technique to a group of 14 Community Build volunteers who will soon build 10 tiny homes on property owned by New Life Church in Port Townsend. The houses will go to the Caswell-Brown Village managed by Olympic Community Action Programs. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

PORT TOWNSEND — A group of volunteers showed up Wednesday to make wooden shelters for people without homes.

New Life Church, at 1636 Hastings Ave., provided space to build the 10 shelters in its parking lot, said Debbi Steele, volunteer coordinator of Community Build and a member of the leadership team.

The shelters, which are expected to be finished by the end of May, will go to the Caswell-Brown Village managed by Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) at 142 Mill Road in Port Townsend.

“It is the second build Community Build has done for OlyCAP,” Steele said.

The first 11 shelters were finished in December.

“We put folks in them before they were actually finished, but we wanted them in them before it got so cold,” Steele said.

Community Build, an all-volunteer organization, started in September 2020 when the group built its first tiny shelters village, Peter’s Place in Port Hadlock, managed by Bayside Housing & Services.

A second village, Pat’s Place, opened in Port Townsend in 2022.

Pat’s Place is full, Steele said. Peter’s Place has had 32 different people stay in its 10 shelters.

“Thirty-two people have had a chance to be out of the cold,” Steele said.

Those who left found more permanent housing or discovered they don’t like being in the shelters, Steele said.

“Bayside Housing is doing a good job finding them places to live,” she added.

Community Build raises the money for the shelters, which cost $6,500 each, Steele said, although this year Jefferson County provided a $20,000 grant to the organization.

“Each time we build, we learn something,” she said.

“When we built Pat’s Place, we added a sanitation facility and cooking area,” she said.

She hopes the group can add a sanitation unit with showers and bathrooms to the Caswell-Brown Village.

Steele was thrilled to find 10 new volunteers at Wednesday’s build.

“We always welcome volunteers — no experience necessary,” Steele said.

“People can go to our website, www.community-build.org, to sign up to volunteer or donate so we can continue to build housing for our unhoused neighbors,” she said.

Judy Alexander, another member of the Community Build leadership team, said in an email that the group “gives real people real ways to contribute and become part of our solution as a community choosing to see others’ needs and turning toward them rather than turning away.

“When we treat our volunteers as people with important gifts, talents and skills that they can choose to offer and give, as they are able to, we open the door to them feeling valuable themselves, not powerless, not without hope of having things they can offer to make our local world a better place. “

Even those who don’t volunteer or donate can help, Steele said.

“When you see people without shelter, say hello, smile, ask them about their day to recognize their humanity,” she said.

“How hard is that, to say hello, to smile?”

________

Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at lleach@peninsuladailynews.com.

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