By Chris McDowell
In a city where providing housing for our most vulnerable populations is seemingly a never-ending task, one organization diligently works in the background to build transitional housing for houseless Portlanders. Home Builders Foundation (HBF), supports Portland-area nonprofit organizations by leveraging connections in the home building industry for monetary support and in-kind donations to lower the costs of shelter housing. Reducing construction costs is critical so shelter providers can focus on getting people off the streets and into permanent, supportive housing. In the last couple years, HBF has increasingly taken on more ambitious projects in an effort to stave off the growing housing affordability crisis that has left many Portlanders living without shelter.
Since 1997, Home Builders Foundation has built and renovated transitional shelter for youth, families and individuals experiencing homelessness across Metro Portland. In the past year, HBF has completed seven shelter construction projects and created more than 150 beds for community members previously living on the streets. In 2019, HBF contributed $153,000 of its own cash to its shelter projects and garnered over $1,000,000 of in-kind donations to support shelter projects with groups like Community Action, Portland Homeless Family Solutions and Do Good Multnomah. A huge part of the success of HBF projects is that in-kind support and cash contributions are almost exclusively provided by local builders, banks, real estate professionals and manufacturers within the home building industry, specifically members of the Home Builders Association of Metro Portland. HBF was founded by HBA members as a way for home builders to positively impact the community through charitable giving and sweat equity and became a chapter of HomeAid in 2005, one of nineteen chapters across the country.
This past year, HBF embarked on a significant project in rural Clackamas County with local nonprofit A Village for One and veteran home builder Jim Standring to build a seven bedroom home for teenage girls escaping sex trafficking. Anisa’s Place shelter will provide safe and secure housing for young girls recovering from sexual trauma and abuse for up to a year. In Portland, sex trafficking is a huge, yet often overlooked problem, particularly because Oregon leads the nation in child homelessness. HBF has provided $200,000 in grants and in-kind donations to make the project a reality.
Another recent project is the Veterans Village, a 24-bed community in Clackamas that houses veterans in sleeping pods and administered by veteran-focused nonprofit Do Good Multnomah. The eight by twelve foot sleeping pods designed by PSU Architecture students are meant to provide a small, but secure space for guests to sleep and store their belongings. Unlike conventional tiny homes, these structures lack bathrooms or kitchens. Instead the toilets, showers, cooking areas and laundry are provided in community facilities located on site. On average these pods cost dramatically less than conventional shelter housing – typically $5,000 to $10,000 per pod – and provide guests with a level of autonomy and personal space not always available in apartment-style shelter housing. In fall of 2019, HBF moved nine new pods leftover from the Kenton Women’s Village to augment the existing fifteen pods, made possible through a $20,000 HBF grant. An additional grant of $20,000 from Kabuki Strength and Bank of America is being used to plant container gardens with food crops and improve outdoor spaces for the Village.
Despite the pandemic, HBF projects have not missed a beat. In fact, the need to build shelter housing for the most vulnerable populations is now as important as ever. The economic toll of this pandemic will hit hard; job losses, food insecurity, loss of childcare, school closures, anxiety and depression. Missing one paycheck for those who are precariously housed can have unfortunate consequences and families can find themselves without a roof over their heads.
HBF has been able to positively impact dozens of local organizations because of charitable contributions from the building community and everyday people that believe in the mission of protecting children, families, veterans and other groups that need our help. As a region we can build affordable shelter housing with collective action and support from community members like you.
We believe everyone deserves a safe place to call home.