Program Provides Yurts to the Homeless

yurtJessica Tenhoff has been making Alaskan yurts for 15 years. Her company, Nomad Shelter, has created yurts and shipped them across the United States and around the world. Tenhoff has started a program called Nomad Shelter Yurts for the Homeless that she hopes will strengthen her business and the local economy while helping people in need.

The program allows people to purchase yurts directly from Nomad Shelter and donate them to a local nonprofit organization. It provides jobs for yurt makers, portable shelter for nonprofits to provide for the homeless, and a 100 percent tax-deductible donation for the person who buys the yurt. Nomad Shelter staff can help people who want to buy and donate yurts complete the necessary paperwork. Tenhoff said her idea is similar to the way that a farmer’s market benefits a community by keeping money in the local area.

Nomad Shelter is busy in the summer, employing up to 14 people. Business tends to be slow in the winter. Tenhoff hopes to generate more business in the winter so her employees can keep working. She wants the company to be busy all year and to make extra inventory that can be bought to help victims of disasters, such as a wildfire and mudslides that displaced 350 Washington families over the summer.

Tenhoff and her husband received a grant from the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation as a result of a study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The grant was intended to support small product manufacturing.

Bob Bornt wants to create a work-therapy program for veterans and others who need coaching to help them live independently after trauma. He wants people to be able to stay in the yurts while they work and then keep them after they complete the program. Tenhoff supports the idea.

Yurts are used as residences, disaster emergency shelters, guest housing, and conference space. Tenhoff lived in a yurt after two house fires and said she was comfortable with her children.