Teens spend summer building tiny homes at St. Mary's Catholic Church
Tiny homes have become popular during pandemic as safe, temporary place to live
The courtyard outside St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in downtown Kitchener has become a temporary construction site this summer.
The church has enlisted a group of students to renovate eight sheds into tiny homes to help people transition out of homelessness.
For church caretaker Andrew Olinski, that means leading teenagers in a crash course in insulation.
"We have to convert [the homes] into something that's more livable … that won't allow for mold and moisture coming inside," said Olinski, who noted the group is wearing face masks for safety.
Despite not having much construction experience, Olinski said the teenagers are a quick study.
"Everybody's asking positive questions and they're easy to teach," he said. "They're making my job a lot easier."
Maria-Fernanda Torres Cerron, 18, told CBC News she's learned a lot about homebuilding since the project began. After her initial summer plans were scrapped because of the pandemic, Torres Cerron said she's glad to take part in a project that gives back to the community.
"This pandemic, one thing it has shown us is that it affects each and every one of us," said Torres Cerron. "It's something that we're all going through together, and it's so important to help out people who are in need right now and stand in solidarity."
The homes are funded by community donations and once completed will be donated to local non-profits.
So far, two of the tiny homes have been delivered to a neighbourhood set up in the parking lot of LOT 42, an event space in an industrial part of south Kitchener.
Richard King is waiting for a tiny home to free up and looks forward to having a secure space where he can leave his belongings during the day.
"The biggest thing for me ... is to be able to lock the door and go for the afternoon or go for the day without having to worry," he said.
King said he moved to Kitchener about 30 years ago and has watched the local population grow, while affordable housing hasn't kept pace. He said many people in the community are living paycheque to paycheque, which leaves them vulnerable to quickly falling behind on their bills and mortgage payments.
"The smallest little glitch can put you back," he said.
"A lot of people are one paycheque away from [homelessness.]"
King said he thinks the tiny homes are a good, temporary solution for people living on the streets and in tent cities. He said it's "crucial" for the region to build more. He's been pitching in with construction himself and hopes to move into a tiny home within the month.
Going forward, King, a former business owner, said he plans to continue working to end homelessness in the region.
"We've got to stop trying to sweep our problems under the carpet and deal with them."