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Remake Talent aims to shape recovery efforts

TALENT — While federal, state and local agencies coalesce to respond to crisis in the triage phase, community vision can become lost in the chaos.

Tucker Teutsch, founder of the nonprofit Remake Talent, aims to supply insight and apply pressure to propel Talent’s overall regrowth from the disastrous Almeda fire toward equity and sustainability.

“I hate to consider a next time,” Teutsch said of the fire episode. “But I’d like to imagine that it’s possible to rebuild in a way that helps mitigate the long-term effects of climate change by building with better technology and materials.”

Still, what works in one municipality isn’t a foolproof recipe for another.

A second-generation Talent resident, Teutsch’s focus on his town comes with a hope that other communities such as Phoenix and Medford will use the template he has created for sustainable rebuilding — reshaping it to suit their own needs and desires.

With a background in temporary infrastructure and disaster response, he has 100 acres of land in Talent, upon which a 160-square-foot container home sits, designed to accommodate four people. The home became the prototype for the Remake Talent container project.

The itty-bitty off-grid home is equipped with broad sun-catching windows, kitchen, shower, composting toilet, setup for a green roof, gray water system and black water sewer capacity. For future modules based on the prototype, the design is easy to plug and play anywhere with utility hookups, and costs about $15,000, Teutsch said.

He and a newly formed board wrote a $96,000 grant proposal to Rogue Credit Union to build eight container homes, and some donors have shown interest in the project.

“You want to create function, but you also want to have form,” Teutsch said. “What we’re hoping ... is to inform the aesthetic of future Talent looking at modularity and sustainability at the heart of it all.”

Traditional planning, permitting and construction processes take four to six months even fast-tracked, in municipalities unsuited for disaster relief. Therein Teutsch identified a gap that nonprofits can fill: Support and develop templates for quicker infrastructure deployment.

Yet obtaining land suitable for pilot projects is an elusive goal in the area. Teutsch has a land bank project in mind to acquire acreage large enough to serve the fire-displaced population.

In the meantime, the 160-square-foot prototype is scheduled to be moved next week to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production facility in Talent, for replication as a rapidly deployable affordable housing option.

“If we can represent what Talent and hopefully Phoenix want in a little bit more clear way, I think that’s valuable,” Teutsch said. We’re trying to create as many avenues for that input as possible.”

In practice, the organization’s mission overlaps areas of expertise among his team, including city planning, real estate and land and transitional housing experience, to focus on affordable housing and commerce using principles of equity, sustainability, resilience and community engagement.

Consultant Audra McMurray, CEO and founder of Causitree Marketing & Consulting, welcomed some hearty skepticism from a member of the public about the nonprofit’s intentions and how fire survivors would actually acquire tiny homes.

“I genuinely thanked her for making that public,” McMurray said of the concerned citizen’s input. “[That’s] why we’re homing in on the mission, vision, values; just because it is so big, there are so many moving parts, we want people to understand.”

Plans and timelines for supplying and gifting affordable homes are posted on the organization’s Facebook page.

Misty Munoz brings a focus on long-term water and soil quality to the team, with experience as a mobile home owner battling property rights issues with land ownership following the fire.

Munoz exhibits a heightened awareness of the potential for exploitation of traumatized survivors and land grabbing — what Teutsch dubbed “disaster capitalism.” Many homeowners lack a seat at the table for large scale rebuilding decisions while they, for the time being, are just looking to have their basic needs met, Munoz said.

Another challenge facing Remake Talent: it’s an election year. Who will sit on the City Council is a question Teutsch isn’t waiting around to be answered, instead seeking allies and buy-in across the board, including from politicians, Latino groups and individual community leaders.

People from truckers to butcher-block countertop builders have a place to plug in and help with the container house project, Teutsch said. With so many people searching for ways to contribute their skills to disaster response, a collaborative effort to build various pieces of a container home in off-site workshops could come together for assembly at the production facility and churn out dozens of homes in days.

Stacked container houses can accommodate large, multigenerational families who need the space, when a FEMA trailer might not be workable. Containers are easy to move and cheaper than tiny houses with chassis and specialized, Instagram-worthy appliances, he said. Multi-level pop-up container shops might suit a business-owner who lost their storefront.

Dozens of Rogue Valley organizations have come together to provide direct relief to families, and those are best-suited to know who needs housing most urgently, Teutsch said, hence the value of mutual aid partnerships in avoiding unnecessary redundancy in services.

First comes the effort to get food and clothing into the hands of displaced people, then there is a long road of recovery, where few organizations are positioned, he said. That road offers room for nonprofits to thrive, relatively unhampered by the political environment in Washington D.C.

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497 and follow her on Twitter @AllayanaD.

allayana darrow / ashland tidingsTiny homes could be a temporary solution for those who are displaced by the Almeda fire.