The Victoria Group desires to construct car-inspired shelters for the homeless

The cabins are warmer and more massive than a tent and have been used in cities across the United States, including Eugene, Oregon, where about 200 cabins provide makeshift accommodation.

Krista Loughton has come one step closer to her dream of providing affordable accommodation to people affected by homelessness.

Loughton is part of a group called the Community Alliance for Sheltering Alternatives that is hoping to build “Conestoga” cabins – named for Conestoga wagons that pioneered the US to the western states – for the people of Greater Victoria.

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

The cabins are warmer and more massive than a tent and have been used in cities across the United States, including Eugene, Oregon, where about 200 cabins provide makeshift accommodation.

Each hut has 60 square meters of living space and a lockable door.

“It gives them a home base where they can protect their belongings,” Loughton said. “Homeless people are handcuffed to their belongings. You can’t really get things done. Most people do not understand what an obstacle this is to improving their life. Sleeping bags and tents cannot be left unattended. “

Although the money is there, the biggest challenge the group faces is finding a location for the first cabin, Loughton said.

Since this is a community initiative, the huts must be on private property.

Loughton said the ideal place would be a church parking lot. “My dream is to have one in every church parking lot in the Capital regional district.”

The first Conestoga cabin is being built for a homeless man and his dog, Lulu, who slept rough on Government Street in spite of the snow and freezing temperatures.

The team seeks help from private individuals, companies and churches. We are looking for property owners who are willing to accommodate a single hut for a given period of time, preferably in a location with a public washroom nearby. They are also looking for groups of four volunteers to work as Settlement Support Teams to connect people to services.

The idea is to start small with a cabin to house and build on, Loughton said.

“The great hope is that we’ll do another, and another, and another, and we’ll do that very quickly,” she said. “We’d get volunteers.”

On Salt Spring Island, members of the Wagon Wheel Housing Society, a grassroots organization working to end poverty, hunger, homelessness and isolation, piloted a Conestoga hut to show they can safely isolate the homeless during the pandemic .

The cabin was on display in the Country Grocer parking lot in the summer of 2020 and was later relocated to private property to accommodate a farm laborer who pays the company $ 50 a month.

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

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

Victoria businessman Rob Reid, owner of Frontrunners Victoria and New Balance Victoria and a member of the group that supports the Greater Victoria Initiative, said those at risk deserve a dry, safe place to live in a cold winter.

“It is time to talk about the crisis and do something about it,” he said.

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

“I fully support the construction of a prototype Conestoga cabin that can inspire a new housing model to address the homelessness crisis across the region,” said McNeil.

Check out the group’s promotional video at youtube.com/watch?v=d1Ft0zuMNO8.

Anyone interested in joining the Community Alliance for Sheltering Alternatives program can email [email protected]

[email protected]

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