New Brunswick

Saint John youth learn a skill while building tiny homes for shelter

Many young people feel they're falling through the education and employment cracks. A Saint John carpentry program is there to catch them.

Free program teaches building skills, ends in tiny home for local shelter

Kayla Godfrey is one of three students who graduated from the six-month program. (Human Development Council/Facebook)

Many young people feel they're falling through the education and employment cracks. A Saint John carpentry program is there to catch them.

"This was really a fresh start for me," said former bartender Regan Pentz.

Pentz said she is eager to start job hunting after completing a carpentry course over the last six months through the UYes! program of the Human Development Council. 

She and a cohort of people 15 to 30 years old have been building tiny homes, at once learning a skill and helping people struggling with homelessness.

"I had zero confidence going in, but now I have enormous confidence," she told Information Morning Saint John. "Like I can talk to anybody, I can do anything. I just I feel like I'm this whole brand new person."

Each UYES! cohort starts the program with learning theory, then gaining practical skills by building a tiny home for a Saint John homeless shelter. From left: lead instructor Stephen Mersereau, graduate Kyle Hamm, assistant instructor Wayne Batchelor, graduates Regan Pentz and Kayla Godfrey. (Human Development Council/Facebook)

The urban youth employment and education program in Saint John is aimed at young people who are facing barriers to employment.

It's funded by the provincial and federal governments — including tools for students to keep. Students get paid for 30 hours a week for eight weeks, and the rest is free training.

This month, it graduated a new class of carpenters.

Project manager Callie MacKenzie said the tiny home is going to the Outflow Men's Shelter.

"There may may be plans to have many homes built or tiny homes placed in some areas in the city as shelter diversion tactics," she said. "Some exciting things underway."

Saint John homeless shelters and transition houses have not been spared from the affordable housing shortage across the country and the province. Many have been running at capacity and need to expand to meet the needs of people struggling to find stable housing.

Kyle Hamm, 18, is the the youngest of the cohort. (Human Development Council/Facebook)

The tiny home is about 10 feet wide and 30 feet long, MacKenzie said, and has a kitchen, bathroom and living space.

MacKenzie said students learn some fairly advanced carpentry and construction, workplace safety, first aid, job readiness, managing conflict and problem-solving. She said the program started with seven people, but some students received job offers or switched programs.

Some graduates want to further their training at the New Brunswick Community College.

"That's the whole purpose of this program, is making those connections and network-building," she said.

MacKenzie said UYes is now recruiting for a new session that starts in late summer. Seven spots are still open. 


Hadeel Ibrahim is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick based in Saint John. She reports in English and Arabic. Email:

With files from Information Morning Saint John