Nova Scotia

A tiny home taught youth how to build — and became an affordable housing platform

LakeCity may be best known for teaching woodworking skills to those with mental illness. But this summer, they're building a tiny home — and then putting it up in a lottery.

The tiny home lottery will be held Oct. 5; the profits will expand youth programming at LakeCity

LakeCity hopes to sell 10,000 tickets for the tiny home lottery before the Oct. 5 draw. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

The whine of the saw cuts over conversation and the air hangs heavy with pine. A client known as Motown would usually be singing by now, but instead he's showing visitors how a pair of weathered hands can pull the perfect cut of wood out of this machine.

Here at the Dartmouth workshop of LakeCity Woodworkers, those with mental illness can learn the craft of building furniture.

But the team has bigger plans: building a tiny house — and expanding LakeCity's programming by raffling off the tiny home this fall. Three young people were hired in June to help.

A client at LakeCity demonstrates his skills in the woodworking shop. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

More affordable housing

The tiny home lottery also has another purpose. LakeCity executive director Liam O'Rourke wants to raise awareness about how hard it can be for those with mental illness to find an affordable home.

"A lot of the clients that we support here within our operation don't have the best living conditions," O'Rourke says. "If we're going to build a tiny house, then I think it's a pretty easy platform to politely make the point that things do need to change."

The build began barely two weeks ago. A wooden frame sits atop a trailer as workers scale the scaffolding with the same ease of a child climbing a tree.

They've tweaked plans from Nova Scotia's Full Moon Tiny Shelters and, once it's built, the 160-square-foot space will include a bathroom, a cozy kitchen and a living room with a hidden bed.

"Use your imagination," O'Rourke says. 

Chloe Budd, 22, has been hired to work on the tiny home project. She says she's learned so much from those in the woodworking shop. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Learning a trade

Chloe Budd shields her face from the sun and glances at the tiny home; she can picture what O'Rourke is describing. She's been hired on to the project for the summer — to run the lottery's social media campaign before joining the construction crew.

"I actually don't know a lot about building … so the thing that's really cool about this job is that I'm completely immersed in something new." 

Budd, 22, says she's already learning from the clients at LakeCity's woodworking program.

"We do so much here and people are always so surprised, but the people who work here are so passionate about their jobs, they're so hard-working, they're so incredibly capable."

LakeCity builders are hoping to finish this tiny home by the end of September. (Submitted by LakeCity)

'I'd love to keep doing it'

Whether those clients could build tiny homes in the future is still up for debate, but O'Rourke says there seems to be a demand. He's gotten several calls from people looking for tiny homes themselves.

And he says they've already sold 500 of the 10,000 tickets he hopes to sell before the Oct. 5 draw.

The 160-square-foot home will include a cozy kitchen, bathroom and living area, along with a rollout bed. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

"I'd love to keep doing it ... I've spent probably far too much time as the executive director working on the tiny home because I find it to be quite therapeutic myself," he says. "But whether or not it's the right business for LakeCity, we'll see what the youth have to say after we finish the project."

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