November 2, 2016

The Thrill of the Build

By David Fresco

Introduction by Anna Steckel

Jewish social justice gap year program builds a tiny house at the ReBuilding Center, homeless, houseless

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the ReBuilding Center in Northeast Portland. After weaving my way through isles of refurbished doors and windows, baskets of miscellaneous appliances, and piles of mismatched house furnishings, I found the Tivnu construction crew. They were at the back, working away at their tiny house. Some were handling heavy machinery while others were working as a team to figure out what needed to be done next. They quickly saw me and ushered me over. Their faces lit up as they gave me a tour of the tiny structure turned-home. Each pointed out the work they did individually as well as the projects they’ve worked on as a whole. The crew invited me inside and waited expectantly for a response from me, their advisor. I only had congratulations to offer. The work they’d done was beautiful, creative, and precise.

Jewish social justice gap year in Portland, Oregon builds a tiny house at the ReBuilding Center

As I write this, I have trouble articulating just how important these moments are for me. Seeing how proud each Tivnu participant is of the work they do makes me love my job more each and every day. Whether they’re part of the construction crew, working on a farm, repackaging food at Urban Gleaners, or creating community through food at Sisters of the Road Cafe, each Tivnoodle comes home at the end of the day with new accomplishments and goals met. The piece below, written by David, is a creative look into his own achievements at the ReBuilding Center. Enjoy.

the aggressive thump of a pneumatic tank beats in time with our hearts, pumping adrenaline through our blood. danger surrounds us, but so does hope. our small confinement in the rebuilding center, marked by bright safety cones, holds the first iterations of the future. within the cones lies a wooden box. eight feet by eight feet, it is supposed to house a single person for several years. the first of its kind, the pressure is on and the tension is ramped up tenfold. bursting with excitement, we approach our project eagerly. between the scream of the saws, the deafening strikes of our hammers, and the excited blood rushing in our ears, we power forwards to build shelter for one unlucky individual, abandoned by fate, who’s life still has much to bear. change the scene to hazelnut grove: a small collection of unhoused individuals working outside societal constraints to build futures for themselves. they are a forgotten tribe in the concrete jungle, surviving by their wits and ingenuity. despite the odds stacked against them, they manage to thrive. imagine, if you will, a neighborhood for ants. scaled down to house the bare essentials, the skill and imagination demonstrated by the hazelnut grove inhabitants is impressive, to say the least. handmade walkways and housing structures, restroom facilities, and their own supply of electricity. our little project at the rebuilding center will come to rest here among the similar buildings found in the small encampment. flash back to the rebuilding center, present day. our “tiny house” is doing quite well. the exterior is nearing completion, and with every step of the project, the tivnoodles’ knowledge grows more and more potent. after completing my first wall of house siding, i realized that i am quite capable myself. i imagine that the other tivnoodles feel the same. you see, dear reader, every board we put up, every nail we fasten further cements our knowledge and confidence in our own ability. seven hours a day and four days a week we build. we create. as our structures grow, so do we. i believe there is no feeling more empowering than holding a pneumatic nail gun, powering nail after nail through several inches of plank and board, fastening them there for years to come. there are very few feelings that are nearly as satisfying. i fear that the tiny house is nearing completion, and once complete we will have to leave it for another project, letting it fend for itself. despite its small size, it has had a great impact and i will always have room for it in my heart.

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