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Hope Village milestone

Supporters of a tiny duplex village for the homeless had lots to celebrate Monday when they announced they'd reached their fundraising goal of $221,000.

At a groundbreaking event at the corner of West McAndrews Road and Columbus Avenue, more than 100 people showed up, including Mayor Gary Wheeler and other councilors, to check out the site of the village that should be ready for move-in by mid-January.

"We're just excited that poor people will have a place to live," Judy Salter said.

The 63-year-old Shady Cove resident's daughter, Eagle Point resident Cheri Forster, contributed $3,500 to help build one of the duplex units, which will be named after Salter's son, Dave Forster, who died of a tumor two years ago.

"We're calling it Dave's Place," she said. Her son used to let people stay at his house if they needed a place to sleep, Forster said. 

Others in attendance took a walk through a display model of the tiny house, an 8-by-10-foot plywood unit with a small porch.

"It feels like a dollhouse," said Berit Larson, a 69-year-old Ashland resident.

The actual 14 units will be built like duplexes to maximize space on the tiny lot, owned by the city and leased to Rogue Retreat, which has spearheaded the effort to build a small housing complex for the homeless patterned after a similar village in Eugene.

Michael LaConte, who currently lives in a tent along the Greenway, said he wasn't sure about the duplex idea at first, but has seen one being built. With two, two-by-four insulated walls where the units are attached, he thinks it will greatly reduce the noise.

"There should be plenty of privacy," he said.

Jim Keeter, who is on the homeless village steering committee, already has been building the walls and floors for the duplex units at his shop in rural Medford.

The 66-year-old said he had heard about the village at Sacred Heart Catholic Church and looked into ways he could help. Currently at his large shop, he does a lot of woodworking, including building gift boxes for Harry & David.

Keeter, who's also made gazebos and other structures, said, "I'm really happy to do it."

He said the tiny houses, which are built mostly of two-by-fours and plywood, are a simple but solidly built structure. "We want this thing to be as close to perfect as possible."

Keeter is trying to build two units per week, and each one should cost under $3,500, which includes $2,000 for materials, $500 for extra help and $800 for the use of his shop and equipment.

He said he will build each panel as a modular unit to be assembled quickly on site. He thinks with 75 volunteers, most of the units should be put together in about a day once they're delivered to the site.

The tiny houses won't have electricity or plumbing, but a community room, showers, laundry facilities and restrooms will be available on the same property.

Heather Everett, administrative director at Rogue Retreat, said she received 52 applications for the units and those have been narrowed down to 14, including six couples.

As part of the screening process, those who are registered pedophiles or sexual predators aren't allowed, Everett said. Someone who has manufactured drugs in the past five years or has engaged in violent behavior in the past two years wouldn't be accepted. Preference is given to those who have been homeless for a while and have lived in Medford.

Sharie Beale, a member of the homeless village steering committee, said she's looking for people who want to contribute $15 a month for the ongoing operating costs of each unit.

She said each resident will pay $60 a month in rent, but there will be additional costs for showers, restrooms and general upkeep.

"The community has been so supportive," Beale said.

Even though organizers have met their fundraising goal, they are still encouraging donations for the project.

Donations can be made at www.hopevill.org or by contacting books@rogueretreat.com or 541-499-0880.

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Jim Keeter stands among stacks of floors, walls and studs he is manufacturing at his Medford carpentry shop that will form the tiny houses at Hope Village. Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta