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It takes a village

Many hands made for light work building the small structures at the heart of Hope Village.

Volunteer turnout more than doubled Hope Village organizers' expectations Saturday for the "Big Build," erecting seven "tiny duplex," shed-like structures in west Medford that'll be home for about 20 people who are now living on the streets. 

Heather Everett with Rogue Retreat, who organized the volunteer build at 821 N. Columbus Ave., had hoped for 75 people, but instead she got about 200 from local churches, the United Way and others who saw a call to help on social media.

Among the volunteers helping build was Judie Salter of Shady Cove, who donated funds and labor to build one of the duplexes in honor of her son, Dave Forster. Forster opened his home to any and everyone before he lost his cancer battle. Salter's family helped assemble the pieces for Dave's Place in January for Saturday's build.

Cheri Forster of Eagle Point, Dave Forster's sister, also helped, though she said she let others do the heavy lifting after she saw contractors volunteering. She said the family got to pick where Dave's Place went, choosing the space at the far end near the area's dog park.

"He'd like to be where the dogs are," Forster said, adding that they also picked the spot for the "selfish" reason that it's visible from Columbus Avenue so they can drive by and point it out.

Sean Moroni, who owns the business Southern Oregon Tiny Homes, said he came out with his teen son to help.

"It's really cool to see them go up so fast," Moroni said. "I just think it's an awesome cause."

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints elders saw the request for help at JustServe.org, and had been helping since 9 a.m. Saturday.

Jimi Jones of Medford turned out to help with the "grunt work." He said he came because he saw the call for volunteers on Facebook and was able to help.

Debbie McComas, wife of Rogue Retreat executive director Chad McComas, marveled at the volunteers lifting, hammering and sawing away, recalling in contrast the uphill battle against the project in its early stages. McComas said that having a locking door and a place to sleep undisturbed will make a major difference in the residents' lives.

"Nobody wanted this in their neighborhood," McComas said, adding that many don't realize they picked the "cream of the crop" to live in the transitional homes.

Cathy Marcoux and Charlie Hale, who will be case managers on site once Hope Village opens July 1, said Rogue Retreat was "very selective," holding a rigorous application process to ensure residents they picked were willing to make changes in their life away from the decisions that led to their homelessness. Residents will meet with their case manager for three hours a week, participate weekly in a life skills group, and must be active in their addiction recovery. Hale called it a "hand-up rather than a hand-out."

Rogue Retreat has a "relapse plan" in place, because slip-ups happen in early stages of recovery, but the resident has to have the desire to stop his or her addiction.

"As case managers, it's really hard to work with someone who won't do nothing," Hale said.

Chad McComas said that Hope Village drew inspiration from Eugene's Opportunity Village project, but on-site case managers is an innovation from the Eugene model.

"We're trying to attack the problems," Chad McComas said.

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Volunteers on Saturday assemble the 8-by-10-foot duplexes that will make up Hope Village at 821 N. Columbus Ave., Medford. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]