December 19, 2012

Opportunity Village Eugene and the Conestoga Hut

Conestoga Hut

by Andrew Heban

I am with the non-profit Opportunity Village Eugene and thought you might be interested in posting about our newly developed 60 sq. ft. Conestoga Hut here in Eugene, Oregon.

The Conestoga hut is 6 by 10 foot shelter that can be built for between $250 and $500 depending on the utilization of re-used or donated materials. While this price is similar to a quality tent, the Conestoga makes significant improvements upon the tent – most notably an insulated and lockable space – while minimizing the cost, skill and labor required by a more conventional, four-walled structure.

There are four components to a Conestoga hut: a basic 6 by 10 foot insulated floor, two solid, insulated walls that line the short sides of the flooring, and a metal wire roof that is curved to connect to the long sides of the floor. The roofing frame is then covered with insulation and outdoor vinyl that is attached to the base of the structure.

The result is a structure that resembles the Conestoga wagons used during early American westward expansion. The components of the shelter can then be easily assembled or disassembled on site, drawing a reference to the rugged individualism again linked with the Conestoga wagon.

The purpose of building these huts is to expand St. Vincent De Paul’s existing car camping program, which already allows a limited number of RVs or tents to stay on land hosted by faith communities, businesses, non-profit organizations, or governmental offices. The huts will provide more unhoused citizens a safe and secure place to be in Eugene.


The Reverend Brent Was, board member of Opportunity Village Eugene, and The Church of the Resurrection have already agreed to host three Conestoga huts as part of the car camping program and are conversing with neighboring religious organizations to see if they will do the same.

The non-profit Opportunity Village Eugene (OVE) sees this as a chance to incrementally begin to realize their vision for a village of simple micro-houses. While the city continues to weigh potential sites for such a village, OVE is moving to expand emergency and transitional shelter this winter.

Learn more about Opportunity Village Eugene and my blog on self-organized tent cities at Tent City Urbanism.

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Deek - December 19, 2012 Reply

Love it, and would like to see more pix! -Deek

phil - December 19, 2012 Reply

Reminds me of a cheap, easy greenhouse design I have seen.

Steven - December 19, 2012 Reply

I wonder how long the roof would last? Something like this would also make great housing for temporary projects or seasonal workers.

    Sabra Marcroft - December 20, 2012 Reply

    While many different roofing materials will work, what we are currently using is a vinyl product donated by a local manufacturer of disaster relief clinic tents.

    Norm - December 22, 2012 Reply

    In answer to the question, how long will this material last.

    I used a vinyl coated material called tonneau cover material to cover the roof of a camper truck I built 24 years ago. It was applied over 1/2″ closed cell insulation on top of a cedar strip roof.

    In the early years it suffered from peeling in the hot sun. This was eventually remedied by applying elastomeric roof paint as a maintenance chore every 3 or 4 years.

    The roof is still in good condition and in daily use. The truck has never been stored under cover in all this time and has shouldered heavy snow loads and reasonably hot sun.

      JOECASE - January 20, 2013 Reply


      I think you have a winner here. !
      Simple, innovative, affordable.
      I have a nice 4×8 just waiting for you to market
      a materials list & plan !

      nice work

Abel Zyl Zimmerman - December 19, 2012 Reply

Nice design… If you used a very heavy duty whit tarp as the roof, a small amount of light would still come thru, but it wouldn’t be as likely to overheat in the summer. Tarps last just about a year in the sun (UV), but they are inexpensive (compared to roofing) and easy to replace.

Anyway, cool!

    Abel Zyl Zimmerman - December 19, 2012 Reply

    OH, and a TPO membrane for the roof could last something like 10 years, depending on how it wears over the metal frame (they are usually used on a perfectly flat surface). It wouldn’t let any light through…

      Sabra Marcroft - December 20, 2012 Reply

      Since we are insulating these huts, the light doesn’t get through. But if you were building your own to your own specs, you could even design the roof to be changeable with the seasons. Lots of folks around here are talking about doing greenhouses and aquaponics in these too.

Greg - December 19, 2012 Reply

I would say to use the heavy vinyl shrink wrap used in boat yards. it comes in various thicknesses and a 1000+ sqft roll is about $150. the stuff is bomb proof. think highway speed winds during transport and years of UV and weather in coastal environments. plus it shrinks with either a heat gun or a quick pas with a weed burner to a drum tight fit.

ginmar - December 20, 2012 Reply

I really like roof designs like this. More pictures, definitely.

Kera - Dreadnaught Darling - December 20, 2012 Reply

This is a really creative idea. This would work great for the medieval re-enactment crowd in lieu of an RV also.

Good thinking! I would love to see more pictures and hear more about OVE.

Cecile Lusby - December 22, 2012 Reply

This project matches some of the goals of Art Dyson for his building for the homeless in Fresno, CA. Affordable units and a lot of recycled building materials.

Dan - December 22, 2012 Reply

There are videos on the Conestogas at this website:

Shell - December 23, 2012 Reply

Very very cool. 🙂

Feakimmittisp - December 27, 2012 Reply


Anonymous - January 3, 2013 Reply

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Cecile Lusby - January 7, 2013 Reply

Inspiring. Reminds me of Art Dyson’s plans for an eco-village for the homeless in Fresno, except his design has stayed in the planning stage, and Eugene’s Opportunity Village as well as Portland’s Dignity Village actually got built.

Andrew Heben - January 20, 2013 Reply

Check out the Conestogas in use here in Eugene at:

Mark Pettigrew - February 3, 2014 Reply

Cool product. I’m thinking that “camping pods” (popular in Europe) might also make similar shelters for the homeless; either would be better than fabric tents.

BTW, I’d have my photo on this post, but Gravatar doesn’t seem to be working right at the moment.

Mark Pettigrew - February 3, 2014 Reply

At some point, I downloaded a poster for a Huts For The Homeless fundraiser. The web address shown on that poster was But when I tried visiting that site just now, I got a Yahoo message saying that the site could not be found. If you have email information and a phone number for the person in charge of OpportUNITY Village, please send that info to

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