In San Diego County, high school students, construction professionals and Boral Roofing have joined forces to provide affordable, permanent housing for homeless veterans. The Warrior Village Project, the brainchild of founder Mark Pilcher, is an inspirational endeavor that aims to take care of one of the most basic needs for veterans — housing. It’s also simultaneously introducing the building trade to its next generation of leaders.
“The Warrior Village Project is a collaboration of building industry associations, nonprofits serving veterans, high schools, colleges, and business and private donors as well as community volunteers working together to provide affordable housing for homeless veterans while training the next generation of homebuilders,” Pilcher said.
The program is designed to ultimately build pocket neighborhood communities, each with its own set of cottages and a community center, throughout San Diego County. The 400-square-foot homes will provide truly affordable housing to homeless veterans in a supportive community environment. Warrior Village engages students to build the homes, providing them a real-world glimpse into the construction trades and the rewarding living they provide. The program kicked off in late 2019 with 23 students working to build the first two proof-of-concept homes.
“We knew as soon as we heard about this project that we wanted to be part of it,” said Ann Iten, director of marketing for Boral Roofing. “Boral Roofing consistently participates in housing initiatives that support our treasured veterans and we loved that this one in particular is also training the next generation of construction tradesmen and women.”
The first set of student participants, all from San Marcos High School, participated in building the first two cottages as part of Building Industry Technology Academy classes under the professional guidance of wood shop teacher Chris Geldert.
“Typically, in a construction trade program, the kids spend the school year building something, like a shed or partial structure, that is subsequently torn down at the end of the year,” said Geldert. “What we’re doing here is tangible. It’s going somewhere, and it’s always going to be there. When these students are in their 60s or 70s, they might drive by one of these cottages with their kids or grandkids, and it will speak volumes to what they did in high school.”
Boral Roofing donated roofing materials for the first two cottages, providing its popular Boral Steel® stone coated steel roofing for both. A material weighing in at just 1.5 pounds per square foot, the roofing is extremely lightweight yet durable, benefiting from the structural strength of steel. Boral Steel is manufactured in San Diego County at the company’s Oceanside facility and thus didn’t have to traverse much distance to the construction site.
“Boral offered us a choice between some of their popular profiles and colors and we ended up selecting the PINE-CREST Shake in Country Blend, an option that mimics traditional shake roofing and provides a nice look for our cottages,” said Pilcher.
Tim Brown, territory sales manager for Boral Steel, also took park in the effort, traveling to San Marcos High School with a steel cutter and bender. Brown provided a tutorial to the team and the roof was subsequently installed on the first cottage.
“Tim provided us with very thorough guidance, and after meeting with him the team was ready to start cutting, bending and installing the beautiful Boral Steel Stone Coated roofing,” said Pilcher.
After much work on the cottages, the coronavirus pandemic unfortunately interrupted the students’ work. Industry leaders stepped in to put the final touches on the first cottage, which has now been completed and will be transported and set up as an Accessory Dwelling Unit at a residence of Wounded Warrior Homes, a San Marcos-based nonprofit whose mission is to provide transitional housing and reintegration services for post-9/11 veterans suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury and/or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The second cottage will be finished by the high school students once it is safe to return back to school, and when the Warrior Village Project ramps back up again. Despite its current pause, the Warrior Village Project has already made a huge impact among the young builders involved.
“I love that we’re helping veterans,” said senior student Angeline Witt. “That makes me even more proud to be working on this. My grandfather was a Rear Admiral in the Navy, and missile projects he oversaw are still used on submarines today. He’s super appreciative that I’m doing this project.”
Witt switched her career focus from engineering to the building trades due in large part to working on the cottages.
“I was originally looking at becoming an environmental engineer, but after spending the school year working on these homes, I realized this is my passion,” said Witt. “I’m now aiming for construction management.”
Witt has since been accepted to the Construction Management Program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
In addition to the students of the program, involved participants include San Marcos High School, Palomar Community College, the Building Industry Association, the California Homebuilding Foundation, Associated General Contractors, San Diego County Planning and Development Services, and a growing list of sponsors that include The Grainger Foundation, Reliable Wholesale Lumber, Simpson Strong-Tie, Boral Steel, the Home Depot Foundation, Weyerhauser, Sherwin-Williams, and a host of others.
The Warrior Village Project is based in Fallbrook, Calif. To get involved as a volunteer or sponsor of the program, visit warriorvillageproject.com.