SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The Other Side Village will soon provide housing for around 600 people coming out of chronic homelessness in Utah. To do that, hundreds of tiny homes will be built to create a new neighborhood in Salt Lake City.
High school students from Weber School District spent the semester getting their hands dirty to build two of the homes that will make up the village.
Trade programs are far from dead in Utah high schools and students in the career and technical education program at Weber Innovation High School are living proof. This semester, they got hands-on construction experience building two tiny homes.
Student Rebecca Jobe gave ABC4 Reporter Kade Garner a tour of the finished tiny home. Upon walking in the front door, she spread her arms pointing in two directions, and said, “This is the kitchen and living room area.”
Then, in a tour of the home that is still in the framing stages, student Trevor Thompson showed off all the electrical work that is being done. At the back end of the home, he pointed out the bathroom, highlighted where the electrical box was located, then took a couple of steps even farther back and said, “Over here we have the bedroom.”
Both Rebecca Jobe and Trevor Thompson worked on the two tiny homes throughout the school year. They were excited to show off all the work they, and their classmates, had done. They were also excited about the fact that their hard work would last for years to come.
“It’s definitely something we need down in Salt Lake,” Jobe said. “There are a lot of homeless (people) down there.” The two tiny homes will eventually be hauled down to Salt Lake City and become part of the Other Side Village. The homes (which are a few hundred square feet) will then become homes for people who are overcoming chronic homelessness. “You feel like you’re actually going to help somebody who’s been out on the streets and hasn’t had anyone to help them before,” Thompson added.
The basic idea behind the Other Side Village is to create a neighborhood (filled with affordable housing) with easy access to social services to help people get on their feet and keep them on their feet long-term. The village is still in its early stages. Phase one is scheduled to be completed this summer.
“We are the first school district to partner with the Other Side Village,” Rod Belnap told ABC4. Belnap is the CTE director for Weber School District. He said other school districts are also interested in creating a working relationship with the village. A relationship, he said, came naturally for the school district. He added: “We reached out and asked, ‘Who’s building these for you?’ and they loved the idea of having school districts and students be a part of addressing a social issue like homelessness.”
The people who end up living in one of the tiny homes built by the hands of eager high school students will obviously benefit. However, it also benefits those eager students. Those who take the construction management class get to learn outside of a traditional classroom setting, get hands-on construction experience under their belts and have the opportunity to do something for the greater good.
“These (homes) they’ll be placed in the city, so Salt Lake City inspectors inspect them,” construction management teacher Ryan Ortega stated. “So, we go through that process and the students get to see that process as well,” Ortega explained that while students are doing the bulk of the construction on the tiny homes, people will live in them. That means inspectors treat them like they would anyone else. Through a laugh, he added: “There were a few things we got dinged on with the inspection. A student fixed them and that’s an awesome learning process.”
“I didn’t really have any previous construction experience,” Jobe told ABC4. She plans on going into law enforcement after high school. However, she said construction will now always be a good backup. Her classmate, Thompson feels similarly. Thompson hopes to become a lineman. He said this class gave him great, basic background knowledge of electrical work. “Construction is always my backup,” he concluded.
Around 100 students have worked on the two tiny homes. While not all will pursue construction work after they graduate, they all said being a part of the build was worth the hard work. For some, there were multiple benefits to taking the class. “Being able to be around people with the same interests as me, being able to make friends that way,” Jobe stated.
According to Belnap, the Other Side Village pays for all construction materials as well as $5,000 for the school to use towards tools and upkeep. He told ABC4 that they plan on building even more tiny homes for the village next school year.