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Brothers from Oregon Episcopal School build tiny house to fight homelessness

Their tiny house is delivered to Dignity Village on Friday


FOR THE TIMES: PHIL FAVORITE - Oregon Episcopal School student Jack Morisette (left) and older brother Henry Morissette join Ray Broddus (center) after the Morrisettes delivered the tiny house they built to Broddus at Dignity Village in Portland on Friday.Henry Morissette hardly could believe his eyes.

Just days before, he, his younger brother Jack and other high school students from Oregon Episcopal School had begun building a tiny house to help fight homelessness.

Now, as the completed structure was being delivered to Dignity Village in Portland, the 17-year-old beamed with pride.

“It just feels so strange that a week ago, it wasn’t even there. Now it’s here, it’s finished and someone’s going to be able to move into it,” he said. “It just feels incredible.”

It started as an idea to get a jump on their school service commitment for the coming school year. The Morissette brothers gathered a group of student volunteers — many of them teammates from their OES’s varsity boys lacrosse team — and worked over seven days to build the 10-by-12-foot house from start to finish.FOR THE TIMES: PHIL FAVORITE - Oregon Episcopal School students Henry Morissette (left) and Jack Morisette pose in front of the tiny house they built and delivered to Dignity Village in Portland on Friday.

Henry will be a senior this coming school year, while Jack, 16, will be a sophomore.

“When we’re out around Portland, we see a lot of homelessness and we both agreed this would be a positive thing to do for us, and obviously, for other people,” Henry Morissette said.

The students used donated materials and advice from experts from Pacific Lumber, Stone Bridge Homes NW and other companies from the local home building and supply community.

According to thetinylife.com — an Internet-based resource for information about tiny houses — the "Tiny House Movement" is a social phenomenon in which people are downsizing their living spaces. The typical American home is about 2,600 square feet, while the typical small or tiny house is around 100 to 400 square feet. They come in different shapes and forms, but all tiny houses are based on smaller spaces and simplified living.

In recent years, tiny houses have been seen as a way to combat homelessness with many popping up around the country in neighborhoods designed for low- and no-income housing similar to Dignity Village

Dignity Village, a city-authorized encampment of some 60 residents, began as a tent city for some of Portland's homeless. With dedicated land near Portland International Airport since 2000, Dignity Village has grown to offer small brick-and-mortar homes as well as support to help residents transition to permanent housing and employment.

Students in the upper school (or high school) at OES are required to do about 160 service hours over their four years, broken down to 60 hours on campus, 20 in the community and two substantial projects that they develop on their own.

In building the tiny house, the Morissette brothers are continuing a legacy set by their older brother Ted, who led OES students in building a tiny house for Dignity Village two years ago.

Prior to the start of construction, Henry and Jack Morissette met with officials at Dignity Village to discuss their plans.

“I was really impressed with their active search for answers,” said Katie Mays, program support specialist at Dignity Village. “They were really engaged.

“Many of the houses that were built here previously are at the end of their useful life. They’re leaking and are poorly insulated. We’re trying to replace them and improve those fundamental living conditions so our residents can focus on other areas of their lives.”

On Friday, the new tiny house was delivered from its building site on a loading dock at Pacific Lumber in Beaverton to its permanent site at Dignity Village.

Ray Broddus, the resident who will occupy the new tiny house, has lived at Dignity Village for three years after suffering a stroke that left him unable to work. He was on site when the house arrived on the back of a flatbed semi truck and was lifted and placed at its permanent site.

“I didn’t know we were going to be meeting him,” Henry Morissette said. “It’s then you realize that we’re not just building a structure. We’re building a home.”