PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Lynette Ingalls was homeless for about 20 years. “They called me the Street Mama,” the 51-year-old told KOIN 6 News.
But in June, she moved into the Kenton Women’s Village, a cluster of 14 tiny homes for homeless women. Ingalls said her tiny home is “pretty nice” and doesn’t think it feels really small.
“You have enough room to change and lay in bed or whatever you want to do,” she said.
Now, there’s more storage space at the Kenton Women’s Village after 30 old lockers from Grant High School were gifted to the village.
Small business owner Eric Ufer had the idea of repurposing the lockers when he heard from one of the Grant High subcontractors the lockers were headed to a landfill.
“When I heard at our equity contractors committee meeting that these lockers were basically available I thought first hand of this amazing community and how they could probably benefit from them,” Ufer told KOIN 6 News. “A lot of times these simple little ideas actually make a lot of sense but we’re all so busy doing our thing that sometimes we overlook some of these simple opportunities that can really be impactful.”
He said he first learned how lockers might help homeless people as a safe place to store personal items from a teammate in Denver.
Some of the women are using the lockers outside their tiny homes to store personal items, and some will be put in the soon-to-be-enclosed community area. Those lockers will be used to store food items.
Catholic Charities is guiding the project along with community partners on city-owned land. The women have access to social services and medical care, they are required to do volunteer work, and some are getting jobs and their GED.
Bernadette Stetz, the village manager with Catholic Charities, said the Kenton Women’s Village is going well.
“We’ve formed such a community between the residents and they are working really well with their case managers from Catholic Charities,” Stetz told KOIN 6 News.
Nursing students come once a week to help with basic care and nutrition. The residents cook for each other when they’re sick, go with each other to appointments and “treat each other like sisters,” she said.
Three women are about to go into permanent housing.
But the tiny homes and kitchen space for the 14 women presents a storage challenge.
“We’ve found a really awesome, innovative solution in that Portland Public Schools was so kind to help coordinate with Anderson Construction,” she said.
Ufer said he understood these home don’t have much space on the inside to store personal items. But he said he can “actually see maybe a little industrial area where where they can go ahead and store other things, where they can go ahead and work on things like their organic garden, for example.”
For Lynette Ingalls, who recently helped do maintenance at the PPS administrative building, the storage lockers are a nice addition.
“It helps me, you know, rearranged my stuff in my house,” she said.
But she’s not stopping there. She now dreams about “getting in my own place. It would mean a lot.”