Watching 115 hours of uncut footage shot in two Victoria encampments for the unhoused in 2020 pushed Krista Loughton over the edge.
“I can’t sit around and watch this happen, it’ll make me nuts,” she told Black Press Media.
The filmmaker is working her way through 120 days of footage while crafting two films, including a short due to come out next spring for the Coalition to End Homelessness. It was a vivid reminder of watching what people went through last year with limited extreme weather response and the challenges faced by those living in the rough.
“We can’t let this happen again this year,” she said. “I can’t just sit by and do nothing because it’s crazy what they go through.”
Except the lack of extreme weather help is reality again this year.
So Loughton and friends Matt Dell and Jeremy Caradonna put their heads together and created the Community Alliance for Sheltering Alternatives, and developed a plan to create interim housing connecting individuals needing housing to those with private land willing to allow a hut.
The Conestoga Hut has proved useful in other similar climates, Loughton explained. It uses minimal materials, is simple to build and emphasizes keeping people dry and secure.
“This is a step up from a tent with a door people can lock, so they can leave their things. That is one of the biggest hurdles with the unhoused,” Loughton said.
The idea is to start small – with one hut to shelter one person – and scale it up over time, in collaboration with community stakeholders and government organizations, to create alternatives to camping in parks and sleeping rough.
It’s an idea they presented to Alex, the subject of a short film promoting the difference a hut could make for someone sleeping in the rough. He himself sleeps on Government Street, having experienced theft at area shelters. He’d heard of the huts that look similar to an old covered wagon, are insulated, have a locking door and are about 60 square feet.
“I’d love it. That’d be perfect. It would drastically change my life,” he said.
The first goal for the new alliance is to raise $4,000 to build one hut, and to find a property owner to provide a location to place it in their emergency shelter initiative for the unhoused.
“If he had a door to lock so he could go to work, it would change everything for him,” Loughton said of Alex’s situation.
The $4,000 is enough to cover materials, with volunteers doing the build, which can be done in a day.
“The most difficult piece is going to be finding the locations, but once we do that we’ll crowdfund to build them,” Loughton said.
The small team is looking for property owners willing to host a single hut on hardscape for a predetermined amount of time, preferably on a location with close access to a public washroom; financial donations to build huts; and groups of four adult volunteers to work as support teams.
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