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Growing Hope

Since winning approval for expansion from Medford City Council in July, Rogue Retreat has raised just over half of its $260,000 goal to erect 16 new "tiny homes" for Hope Village.

The new 8-by-10-foot units were constructed in Albany and trucked in to augment the original 14 structures, bringing the tiny house community to 30.

Volunteer teams are in the process of finishing them with insulation, sheetrock and flooring, but more groups of up to seven people are needed, Rogue Retreat Development Director Matt Vorderstrasse said. They complete a tiny house every three weeks and expect to have them all finished and occupied by April.

Teams are also building a sizable community center which, unlike the tiny houses, will have heating, plumbing, kitchen and a television. The kitchen is now in a long trailer on site.

The tiny houses may have insulation, but villagers have to innovate to stay warm during colder nights, Vorderstrasse said. Some residents heat rice bags or bottles of water to put in their sleeping bags.

Coming mostly from locals, the money raised for the expansion has reached $140,000, but it has "plateaued" lately, Vorderstrasse said. Donations are down because there are more charities needing money this time of year, he said, but Rogue Retreat is confident of reaching its dollar target.

Hope Village boasted a landmark in its first year, successfully transitioning nine "villagers" up the ladder from its Kelly warming shelter, to Hope Village, to a recovery house with group treatment, and then to subsidized and unsubsidized apartments.

Forty-four such apartments are owned by Rogue Retreat and the Jackson County Housing Authority, said Vorderstrasse, and they mark the finish line for a formerly homeless person integrated back into society.

Rogue Retreat is also proud of how the residents have interacted with neighbors, who were originally worried about seeing shopping carts and piles of beer cans. But the on-site management has made sure those stereotypes don’t occur, Vorderstrasse said.

“The neighbors love us now,” he said.

Villagers also do gate watch, chores, landscaping and tending to a vegetable garden.

Rogue Retreat gets steady funding from AllCare and Jackson Care Connect, and it partners with ACCESS and the state of Oregon.

Case managers help residents obtain necessary IDs, birth certificates, a primary care doctor, credit counseling and help with addictions and mental health.

As the system has reduced stress and increased coping opportunities among clients, their addiction problems show signs of decreasing, Vorderstrasse said. And as the larger housing crisis has impacted regular folks, the community has increasingly come to accept the need for such housing.

With the community center nearing completion, Vorderstrasse said, construction volunteers with experience are asked to contact him at matt@rogueretreat.com.

“We wouldn’t turn down a ping-pong table,” he added.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Hope Village, a tiny house project for homeless people in Medford, is expanding, and organizers are looking for volunteers to help put the finishing touches on the new units.