Photo: Kylie Coates
A Conestoga cabin built on Salt Spring Island by Kylie Coates, a member of the Wagon Wheel Housing Society.
Krista Loughton is one step closer to her dream of offering affordable housing to people experiencing homelessness.
Loughton is part of a group called the Community Alliance for Sheltering Alternatives, which hopes to build “Conestoga” cabins – named after Conestoga wagons that transported pioneers across the United States to the western states – to the outbuildings in Greater Victoria.
By Monday, the group’s fundraising campaign had raised $ 5,300 – more than enough to build a prototype of the cabin with a round roof. “We want to show people that it works,” Loughton said.
The cabins are warmer and more extensive than a tent and have been used in cities in the United States, including Eugene, Oregon, where about 200 cabins provide temporary shelter.
Each cottage has 60 square feet of living space and a door that locks.
“It gives them a home base where they can protect their belongings,” Loughton said. ‘Out-of-home people are chained to their belongings. They can not really get things done. Most people do not understand what a barrier it is to improve your life. You can not just leave your sleeping bag and tent unattended. ”
Although it has the money, the biggest challenge for the group is finding a location for the first cabin, Loughton said.
Because it is a community initiative, the cottages must go on private property.
Loughton said the ideal location is a church parking lot. “My dream is to have one in every church parking lot in the metropolitan area.”
The first Conestoga hut will be built for a homeless man and his dog, Lulu, who have slept hard on Government Street despite snow and sub-zero temperatures.
The team is asking private citizens, businesses and churches for help. They are looking for property owners who are willing to host a single cottage for a predetermined period of time, preferably in a location with a public restroom nearby. They are also looking for groups of four volunteers to work as “settlement support teams” to help connect people to services.
The idea is to start small with one cabin to protect one person and build on that, Loughton said.
“The big hope is that we would make another one, and another one, and another one, and very soon we would get this done,” she said. “We wanted to draw in volunteers.”
On Salt Spring Island, members of the Wagon Wheel Housing Society, a grassroots organization committed to stopping poverty, hunger, homelessness and isolation, built a Conestoga hut as a pilot project to show that they could safely isolate the homeless during the pandemic.
The cabin was exhibited in the Country Grocer parking lot in the summer of 2020 and was later moved to private property to provide housing for a farmer who pays $ 50 a month to the community.
“We can build more,” said Cherie Geauvreau of the housing association.
“It’s a wonderful thing. You’re safe and warm and dry and waking up happy. You have a locking door and a ventilated window, a built – in bed and storage space, and you can have your dog in there.”
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 in the midst of a cold winter that vulnerable individuals deserve a dry, safe place to live.
“It’s time for us to start talking 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 cabins are a proven model that has worked in other cities.
“I fully support the construction of a prototype Conestoga cabin that can be used to inspire a new model of shelter to address the crisis of homelessness across the region,” McNeil said.