California Baptist University students had the opportunity to help build the framework for a project that will help the homeless population in Riverside. The construction took place over three Saturdays: Jan. 18, Jan. 25 and Feb. 1. The city of Riverside partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build 10 cottages for the homeless.
These cottages will be placed in an empty lot near downtown Riverside. Each cottage will be about 425 square feet consisting of one bedroom, one bathroom and a kitchenette. There will be a common area in the center of the site. Each cottage will house one person.
The site is on Mulberry Street, which is in the middle of a neighborhood. Though some have expressed concerns for the safety of those already living in the neighborhood, there will be strict rules in place. If someone breaks the rules, he or she will no longer be allowed to live in the cottages. Along with the rules, there is criteria in place to determine who is eligible to live in the community before they move in.
“Through our outreach team, we engage the homeless and try to get them into a shelter,” said Rusty Bailey, mayor of Riverside. “From that pool, they are going to go through a system and those that are high-performing and high-functioning that can live on their own will be offered a place there.”
The residents will not be able to stay in the cottages indefinitely. The cottages will be a place they can stay while they get a plan of action for getting back on their feet.
The first step in this project was building the structures and framing the cottages. Students in the Gordon and Jill Bourns College of Engineering were allowed to assist in the construction of the framing.
Josiah Norrie, freshman mechanical engineering major, said he enjoyed volunteering.
“I see a lot of value in volunteering. I have done construction for the past three years and I figured I could use some of my skills to help out in this way,” Norrie said.
Habitat for Humanity, the organization with which the city of Riverside partnered to make this project a reality, is an organization that strives to eliminate substandard housing both worldwide and locally.
One of the reasons Michaela Dunn, sophomore industrial and systems engineering major, volunteered was because she said she loves helping the community and she knew this would be a great way to do that.
“The beauty is the partnership because the city can’t solve this problem by itself,” Bailey said. “It is not just a human problem; it is a societal problem. It is awesome to have partners like Habitat and universities like CBU that are offering the volunteers and engaging with community spirit to solve the issues.”
The construction days that CBU students took part in began with a brief introduction by the mayor.
“I enjoyed it when the mayor gave a speech at the beginning of the building day,” Dunn said. “One thing that he said that stuck out was: ‘The homeless are our neighbors without homes so we need to contribute to giving them a foundation.’”
After the introduction, the volunteers were split up into groups and began working on the framework.
After the frameworks are put together, they will be taken to the site where the cottages will be assembled. The project does not yet have a projected completion day, but it is expected to progress quickly.
This project is contributing to Riverside’s ongoing work to reduce the number of people without places to live. Although this project will not solve the homelessness crisis all at once, Bailey said it is one step closer.
“The issue is not just going to go away; it is going to continue to occur,” Bailey said. “Every year for the past couple of years the homeless population has increased and poverty has increased and housing has decreased. This is just one more innovative way the city can address the crisis of our nation, which is housing and homelessness.”