Youth: Get outside, help homeless, gain skills

Sixth- to 12th-graders can get out of their own house, help the houseless, and gain valuable building and tool skills in an after-school partnership program with Cascadia Clusters and the Mittleman Jewish Community Center.
“The basic carpentry, worksite safety, measuring and other skills we teach are super important for kids in our community to learn,” says Cascadia Clusters founder Andy Olshin. “It will help them to ‘see the other’ when working with contractors and other tradespeople later in life. Plus, it can’t hurt to be able to build your own table.” 
Groups of 4 to 10 youth will meet 4-6 pm, Tuesdays or Thursdays, from Oct. 27 to Dec. 10 to learn basic construction, tool safety and furniture building, while also helping to end houselessness. The program meets at the Cascadia Clusters’ 40,000-square-foot outdoor build space on the Schnitzer Family Campus, home to the MJCC, 6651 SW Capitol Hwy.
“That allows us to continue the workshops – for 10 participants at one time – while following strict COVID protocols,” says Andy. “We have lots of signs saying “Stay 10 feet apart,” hand sanitizer and wipes for tools, and our homemade, propane-fueled hand-washing station.”
The Cascadia Clusters Maker Village on the field adjacent to the MJCC has been reconfigured to allow for 10 numbered and very separate student workstations, each bordered by visible markings designating a buffer of 6-10 feet in every direction. 
Tasks will include any or all of the following: de-nailing reclaimed lumber, blackberry removal, furniture making, sawhorse building, gardening, painting and tiny-house building.
“My father (a yeshiva boy from the Bronx) taught me that the highest form of tzedakah was to help others to help themselves – this life lesson is the core of Cascadia Clusters,” says Andy.  Our workshops are taught by two of our veteran (2+ years working with us) houseless construction trainees who live in tiny homes we built with them at the Hazelnut Grove houseless village in North Portland.”
This fall, Cascadia Clusters is building 110 platforms for the three emergency houseless villages created earlier this year by the City of Portland working with JOIN and nonprofit partners. The platforms with tents on them are set 10 feet apart to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Students will help build these platforms for emergency tent villages. The new platforms being built by Cascadia Clusters have metal “hardware cloth” around the perimeter to keep vermin out and are larger than the villages’ original platforms, which were too small for the tents and canopies to fit completely on top of the platform.  The villages offer access to electricity to charge a cell phone and access to a shower truck, meals, and several bathrooms and hand-washing stations.
For more information and to enroll in the after-school program, visit


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