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WSD tiny house program donates dwelling to homelessness village

By Rob Nielsen - | May 23, 2023

Photo supplied

A recent example of a tiny home built by Weber School District students in 2023. This year, one of the two houses the students produce will be utilized to help combat homelessness.

A local initiative to help students learn construction techniques will now start to help combatting homelessness in the region.

For three years, the Weber School District has offered its high school students from across the system the opportunity to build tiny homes.

Rod Belnap, director of career and technical education for district, told the Standard-Examiner that students in Construction I and Construction II classes from high schools throughout the district have been given an opportunity to put their skills to the test.

“A few years ago, we came across a district in Texas that was building tiny homes,” he said. “We thought this would be a great opportunity for students to learn all of the processes in construction in a year — being able to start a project and finish a project. Tiny homes have been an incredible opportunity for students to gain skills and be part of hands-on projects. It’s also been an opportunity for students in our interior design classes to design the inside of the tiny homes.”

Belnap said the first couple of years saw the program building the homes for sale to gain funds for materials and tools.

“In years past, we’ve built tiny homes on trailers and sold them,” he said. “One last year was in the Parade of Homes and we sold it.”

Each year, the district produces two tiny homes.

According to Ryan Ortega, who teaches the tiny home program at Weber Innovation High School, the magnet program brought in more than 100 students this year to build the tiny homes.

This year, the decision was made to partner with The Other Side Village — a community of tiny homes built specifically to house the homeless in Salt Lake City — and donate one of the houses to the village.

Ortega said the students had the experience of seeing their house go through code inspections.

“It’s like eight to 10 inspections before they ship it down to Salt Lake,” he said. “It’s a cool thing to be a part of.”

Belnap said this opportunity goes well beyond just having area students learn the finer points of construction.

“We felt like this opportunity was a great one for students because they were not only learning the trades and these skills with construction, but they were also giving back to the community because of our relationship with The Other Side Village,” he said. “We are the first district to partner with The Other Side Village and have students building homes for the homeless in Salt Lake.”

He said, in the coming years, the district will continue to partner with The Other Side Village along with continuing to build tiny houses for general sale.

“We want to alternate and be able to build one for The Other Side Village and one on a trailer,” he said. “It’s been a great opportunity for students to not only learn skills, but they’re completely engaged in the experience and they take great pride. They’re very proud of the work they do with these tiny homes.”

Ortega said he only sees the program growing in the future.

“Trades are an excellent thing for students to be a part of, whether they’re going into these trades or not,” he said. “Being able to do this stuff is an excellent thing for students.”


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