Students design low-cost housing

Nick Mehendale

Student volunteers hoping to provide help to the homeless painted and continued construction on a one-room micro cottage for the homeless Saturday.

The project is part of Community First!, an initiative by Mobile Loaves and Fishes, a Christian-based nonprofit organization centered around providing aid for the homeless. Its purpose is to create housing and a community for the homeless.

Alan Graham, president of Mobile Loaves and Fishes, came up with the idea for the project. Patrick Bresnan, a sustainable design graduate student and co-architect of the micro cottage along with architecture graduate student Cayce Bean, approached Graham about working on the project through an architecture class. Graham, who is also funding the project, judged a class competition to select a final design for the micro cottage.

“We created a simple design that can be built by volunteers,” Bresnan said.

The cottage is 144 square feet and will include furniture made out of plastic milk crates. The building project started in early May and is taking place at the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, an organization that specializes in experimental housing projects.

The micro cottage will serve as a demo house to show to potential donors. Excluding labor, a cottage costs about $5,000 to build.

“The idea is to have an entire village of these houses,” said Steve Ross, senior lecturer of the architecture class working on the project. “We would feel like we weren’t doing our job if we didn’t get these houses to the people that needed them.”

Last April, the nonprofit organization ran a campaign where they placed Danny Silver, a then-homeless man, on a billboard reading “I AM HERE.” The campaign relied on donations via text messages to raise money to get Silver and his wife an RV to live in. Within a day, they raised the money.

“He has had 20 years of building experience,” Bresnan said. “He will work for eight hours caulking and painting.”

Mary Vo, a student volunteer working on the micro cottage and urban studies senior, said working on housing projects has changed her view about the homeless.

“Issues like the [homeless problem] shed light on where we are as a country,” Vo said. “Working on projects like this shows you that you are not the only person in your life.”