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After eight years of houselessness, Angela Wold finally has moved into her dream home

PMG PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - Angela Wold and her elderly dog Lady moved in to their new tiny home in March on the grounds of North Valley Friends Church.

Nearly a decade ago, Angela Wold was living out of her car with her 4-year-old daughter. Newly single and expelled from her ex-mother-in-law's house, Wold had nowhere to go. All the women's shelters in Portland were either shutdown or had a long waitlist and she didn't feel comfortable bringing her young daughter to a co-ed facility.

Fast forward eight years and Wold, 43, owns a new tiny home. The house, which she helped design, rests on North Valley Friends Church property next to two other tiny homes.

Like hers, the two tiny homes were built by Newberg High School students and Habitat for Humanity. Unlike hers, though, they serve as transitional housing.

Former NHS teacher Matt Miller originally approached North Valley Friends Pastor Leslie Murray four years ago about building a tiny home somewhere on the church's 20 acres. Its purpose: to provide another intermediate housing option for individuals seeking to transition from houselessness to permanent shelter.

Students in Miller's integrated design studio course — a class devoted to solving a problem within the community — and volunteers from Habitat for Humanity finished the first tiny home in 2018 and the second in 2021.

Once those projects were completed, Miller saw an opportunity to fulfill long-time church resident Wold's needs. COURTESY PHOTO: HABITAT FOR HUMANITY - Volunteers from Newberg High School and Habitat for Humanity employed Wold's input into the design of the home.

Wold first arrived at the church in 2017, living in a run-down motorhome that a former employer had purchased for her after learning she was living in her car.

The motorhome, while a step up from her car, had inadequate heating, insulation and access to water. She eventually moved into the first tiny home temporarily but had no plans for permanent housing.

So, when Murray notified Wold of Miller's goal to build her a tiny house of her own, she was ecstatic.

"I never thought I would live in a home (all my own)," Wold said. "I never did, especially not a tiny home. I thought I was going to be in that motorhome for a long time. I had just grown content with it."

During the key ceremony, which occurred mid-March, Wold said she was overwhelmed with emotion.

"I felt so loved, I felt so wanted," Wold said. "I was so used to being pushed out of my environment that I'm still trying to get used to feeling wanted and feeling loved from total strangers."

To top it off, Miller and his students went to great lengths to customize Wold's home to fit her needs and preferences. Wold sent copious emails to Miller with ideas from Pinterest and provided feedback on students' individual tiny home models.

They eventually whittled the design down to Wold's main priorities, which included lots of windows to let in the natural light, an additional bed for Wold's daughter, a covered porch to prevent her from getting wet and a ramp up to her bed for her elderly dog, Lady, who is arthritic.

"They put a lot of heart and effort into including Lady into my little, tiny home," Wold said.

Wold adopted Lady several weeks after she received the motorhome and following a sudden plummet into depression.

"I didn't want to be here, like, six years ago," Wold said. "I definitely didn't want to be on this Earth, and then I got her, and she definitely makes a difference."

When Wold's boss bought the motorhome, "it's almost like I was kind of able to stop being strong for my daughter and I kind of broke down and I got really, really depressed," she said, adding that "she was kind of on her last straw."

So, she scoured Craigslist looking for a service dog and received Lady days later.

"She's welcome here," Wold said. "(Murray) loves Lady. Everyone knows who Lady is, so she's definitely a part of me."

Due to the pandemic shutting down schools, construction was delayed for around 18 months. But Wold remained patient.

Miller depicted Wold as "super grateful and just really sweet about everything that we've been able to do for her" and said "it was special for us" to be able to build her a new home.

"I mean, she was the first person to live in the first tiny home we built, and she lived in it for a couple of years, so it was really special to be able to build her something custom that really fit her needs," Miller said, describing it as an opportunity that most houseless people never receive.

And there are many people without housing in Newberg.

"I get people coming up to the church all the time that either want to stay in their car on site or pitch a tent or sleep on the alcove," Murray said. "I think in Newberg, the problem is a bit hidden because we have a lot of couch-surfing and other not-quite-as-visible folks. But they're here in Newberg. We get them coming to our door a lot."

Murray pointed out that housing prices in Newberg are skyrocketing to the point where "even if you have some money, it's really difficult to get in."

She characterized shelter as one of people's basic needs.

"If you don't have consistent or permanent housing, it's pretty difficult to figure other pieces of your life. …," Murray said. "When you think about it, it affects everything. Where are you going to use the restroom? How are you going to prepare food …?"

The availability of housing certainly changed Wold's life.

"I don't have to worry about not having a roof over my head and it's changed me internally," Wold said. "It made me have more faith in humanity and (know) that people do care."

She added that for a long time, she did not like people, except for babies and the elderly.

"But now I can say that I like people because (people helping me obtain housing) restored my faith, for sure," Wold said, adding that "there's definitely more good (in the world) than bad, you just have to look for it. It's everywhere. I don't think that people look hard enough. They just see the bad things."

With her needs met, Wold is finally in a place where she can turn her focus externally.

"(My experience) makes me want to give back to the community a hundred-fold — like, I just want to help others," she said. "It makes me want to help more — the community out more."

For instance, Wold has been volunteering at the local homeless shelter for a year and has donated her time in other ways as well, such as taking elderly people to doctors' appointments and helping with Meals on Wheels.

"It feels good to give back because I feel the love here …," she said. "I think that's what people need, is some encouragement—more love and more encouragement in order to want to be a better person, better their lives.

"Instead of like damning people who are homeless … they need encouragement and to be lifted up."

The kindness people have shown to her over the past several years has made Wold strive to be a better mom and a more compassionate, understanding person.

"Society really molds you sometimes," she said. "You hear something so many times, you're going to believe it."

She encouraged people to practice grace "because no one's perfect and everybody's a human. They (people) deserve to have second chances."

So, what is next for Wold?

For now, she is working at the church, taking care of the grounds and keeping the church clean for services and various events.

Eventually, Wold said that while she isn't certain about specifics yet, she sees people as her primary target.

"Humanity is my calling, I suppose," she said.

For instance, when another nine tiny homes are erected on church property as part of the transitional Peace Trail Village Housing project, Wold said she could potentially see herself counseling her new neighbors, offering seasoned advice and a listening ear to whomever needs it.

Her goal might be right around the corner.

The church and its partner Providence just received $400,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds toward the planned tiny home village. The ARPA funds will pay a case manager's salary for two years and a project manager's salary. It will also cover the costs of infrastructure, such as engineering, design, excavation, water, sewer and electrical.

"The community knew I was hurting and I've been hurt," Wold said. "They totally get it … and they've been very patient with me and kind, and in turn that makes me want to do the same. I'm (now) able to do that with others."

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