Tiny Houses Built By High School Students For West Virginia Flood Victims Since floods in West Virginia destroyed thousands of homes, residents have struggled to find housing. Vocational students are constructing tiny homes, rather than bookshelves or birdhouses.

High School Students Build Tiny Houses For Flood Victims

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There were horrible floods in West Virginia last summer. Twenty-three people died. Thousands of homes were destroyed. Many flood victims are still struggling to find adequate housing. Now high school students are stepping in to try to help, building tiny homes for flood victims. West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Kara Lofton has more.

KARA LOFTON, BYLINE: At the National Guard air base in Charleston, 10 tiny homes are lined up in two rows, ready for delivery. The homes were built by high school students at a dozen vocational centers across the state. Most of these homes - there are 15 total - are less than 500 square feet, but are designed to house as many as six people. So when the students say tiny home, they mean it.

DAKOTA CARTE: Up here's the loft. That's where they sleep. That's where the hot water tank stays. And right here's, like, your living area - living quarters. You know, you have, like, a refrigerator here. Your stove's in there. They're working on that right now.

LOFTON: That's Dakota Carte - one of the students working on the project at Carver Career Center in Charleston.

Where will the living room be?

CARTE: It's right here. Since it's a tiny house, everything's a little compact.

LOFTON: He stands in the house's living room, which also serves as a kitchen, dining room and bedroom. The whole structure is little bigger than a generous walk-in closet. The school's received $20,000 for the project from the Board of Education and significant contributions and assistance from the neighboring communities.

KATHY D'ANTONI: Folks in West Virginia were still suffering even though the press - all the press had gone way. You know, just like a new story, there's a new day (laughter).

LOFTON: That's Kathy D'Antoni, who oversees the state's vocational schools. Students there learn practical skills, like carpentry, electrical work, plumbing and welding. So many West Virginia families were still struggling, the school board decided this year, instead of the students working on bookshelves or bird houses, they would build tiny homes for flood victims.

EMILY GLOVER: It gives you a lot of pride in the project. And it makes you feel good about it.

LOFTON: That's Emily Glover, a student at Marion County Technical Center. It's after school, but she and her classmates are still working - sawing, installing wiring and hammering.

GLOVER: Well, you learn a lot. I mean, you learn everything from laying it out to actually building it.

LOFTON: One of these homes will go to Brenda Rivers.

BRENDA RIVERS: The tiny house is going to go out there somewhere.

LOFTON: Rivers is in her late 60s. Her home was destroyed by the flood last June. She spent months living in a camper on the back of her daughter's property. Rivers had partial flood insurance. She also received assistance from the federal government to help pay off her mortgage. But she couldn't afford the down payment for another home. So her son offered her a mobile home.

RIVERS: We couldn't find anybody to move it. And the weather was going to get bad. And I said, just let me have my tiny house until spring or summer.

LOFTON: Rivers can't imagine herself living in the tiny home long-term because it's, well, pretty tiny. But for her and the other families receiving the homes, it's a godsend as they continue to get back on their feet. As for the schools, they say the tiny homes were a great way to tie the classroom to the real world. For NPR News, I'm Kara Lofton in Charleston, W.Va.


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