In September 2020, Jesse Thomas – who grew up in Port Townsend – realized winter was coming and many people in Jefferson County were without shelter. He knew something needed to be done so he decided he should start doing it. He approached his friend Peter Bonyun with his idea to build tiny wood shelters. Peter signed on as Project Manager and asked Judy Alexander to join the team as Community Liaison…and from that, Community Build was born.
Peter and Judy reached out to Jim Lyman at Evangelical Bible Church on San Juan Avenue to ask if they could build the shelters on the empty area beside the church. Jim and his church eagerly agreed. With a place to build and Jesse’s drawing for the shelters, they got to work. Randy Welle, a local contractor, started building the first shelter and more and more people joined in. Meanwhile, Peter was working on a location because they still had no idea where to put the shelters; they just knew they had to have them ready for winter.
Scott Rosekrans of Community United Methodist Church in Port Hadlock was excited about the idea. With the approval of his congregation and the collaboration of OlyCAP which owns the senior housing next door, they offered some of their church land for a tiny shelter village. The project needed approval from the County; Commissioner Greg Brotherton stepped up and went to bat for the new village, a first in the county.
As things began to fall into place, more and more people pitched in. Two amazing contractors, Dave Merrill and Todd Armstrong, joined the team as lead builders. Through rain, sleet and Covid, volunteers showed up to work every day. People began donating money for the project and businesses began to donate or discount building materials. Within 5 months, 12 shelters were built and placed on the property. Bayside Housing and Services provides the case management team for the newly named Peter’s Place Village (in honor of Peter Bonyun) and began filling the shelters by mid-January.
From Peter’s Place, Community Build went on to build Pat’s Place, Port Townsend’s first tiny home village, under the sponsorship of Bayside Housing and Services. With Pat’s Place now up and running, Community Build is on to new ideas and ways to provide much-needed transitional and affordable housing in our county.
Jesse Thomas set out to build shelters for those with none. Along the way, we found that we weren’t just building shelters . . . we were also building community.