Opportunity Village Eugene and the Conestoga Hut

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.


    • 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.

    • 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.

      • NORM,

        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

  1. 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!

    • 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…

      • 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.