Inmates build homeless shelters, life skills with Pallet LLC

State prison inmates could end up helping solving the state's homeless problem. It's a new kind of temporary housing that could help more than just the homeless.

ABERDEEN, Wash. – Inmates at Stafford Creek Corrections Center make desks used in schools and furniture for state agency offices, and later this month they’ll start building houses.

The “Pallet Shelters” are portable, temporary homes designed to be used in homeless encampments or in natural disasters. They contain four bunk beds and shelves for personal items.

The homes can be assembled without tools, and in about 20 minutes, according to Amy King, CEO of Pallet LLC, the company behind the shelters.

She said the name comes from the fact the homes can be delivered in pallet-sized boxes.

King envisions them being dropped into disaster zones from airplanes.

She also said they could be purchased by cities and said the company’s been contacted by the City of Seattle as a possible solution to the city’s homeless problem.

The company decided to use state inmates through the Department of Corrections’ Correctional Industries to get the pieces of the home built. Labor costs are much cheaper, as the inmates make less than $2 an hour.

But King said the money saved supports the company’s non-profit, which helps the homeless and ex-offenders find work and homes.

She said the company also wants to give inmates skills they can use when they’re released.

“The thought was, ‘How can we prevent homelessness? How can we create more opportunities to prevent the flow of people onto the streets?” King said.

Inmate John Price, who’s serving 15 years for a 2004 murder, hopes to be released in three years.

“It gives us a chance to learn skills,” said Price, who will be working on welding pieces of the homes when production starts later this month.

Price wants to find welding work when he gets out.

But in the meantime, he’s glad he’s being productive.

“That’s the best part of the project. We’re actually helping somebody out there, besides helping ourselves,” said Price. “You don’t think about that much here.”

Copyright 2017 KING


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