Many Ontario teens had their summer plans ruined by the COVID-19 Coronavirus, but a number of them in Kitchener found an educational, productive, and helpful way to spend their summer.
The courtyard outside St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in downtown Kitchener has become a temporary construction site over the last few months. That’s because the church has enlisted a group of students to renovate eight sheds into tiny homes to help people transition out of homelessness.
For church caretaker Andrew Olinski, who is running the show, that meant leading teenagers in a crash course in insulation. Sheds are meant to store equipment, not people. “We have to convert [the homes] into something that’s more livable … that won’t allow for mold and moisture coming inside,” said Olinski.
Despite not having much experience in construction the teens were inquisitive and positive; that made them easier to teach and made for a quick study.
While the group works together they are all wearing masks for safety, and they have already completed two tiny homes, all of which are funded by community donations.
The two completed homes have been delivered to a neighbourhood and set up in the parking lot of LOT 42, an event space in south Kitchener. The other homes will also be donated to local non-profits for use in the community.
One member of the community who is especially interested in this project is former business owner Richard King. He moved to Kitchener around 30 years ago and has watched the population grow but noted that affordable housing didn’t keep up.
He also noted that many in the community live paycheque to paycheque and that leaves them vulnerable to quickly falling behind on bills and payments and that the smallest glitch can put you out.
He knows that because he himself is homeless. He has been pitching in on the construction and is waiting for a tiny home to be available for him to move into. He said he is looking forward to having a secure space to leave his belongings during the day. So he can go about his life without having to worry someone will walk away with everything he has in the world.
Just imagine that for a second. Try going for a job interview, or to work, and not knowing if all your worldly possessions will be there when you finish. That’s what the kids are trying to help with.
One of the teens involved is
Maria-Fernanda Torres Cerron, 18, who said she’s learned a lot about homebuilding since the project began. She’s glad to take part in a project that gives back to the community. “This pandemic, one thing it has shown us is that it affects each and every one of us,” said Torres Cerron. “It’s something that we’re all going through together, and it’s so important to help out people who are in need right now and stand in solidarity.”
You can learn more about this in your Good News Story of the Day, here, and then perhaps one of our local churches might consider something similar locally. After all, as Richard Kind said; “We’ve got to stop trying to sweep our problems under the carpet and deal with them.”