SANDPOINT — Bike and Build riders came to the aid of Bonner Homeless Transitions’ Blue Haven home for the second year in a row.
“It is awesome to have them come back,” said Tamie Martinsen, program manager for Blue Haven. “It’s fun to meet the different personalities and hear their stories. These guys are go-getters.”
The 36 riders from 18 different states started their journey with a rear-wheel dip in the Atlantic Ocean in Portsmouth, N.H., on June 17. The group is nearing the end of their journey, which will come to a close on Sept. 1 with a front-wheel dip in the Pacific Ocean in Bellingham, Wash.
Bike and Build is a nonprofit that sponsors cross-country bike trips to benefit affordable housing, so each build requires projects taken on across the country to involve affordable housing in one way or another. Many of the builds are Habitat for Humanity or other nationwide organizations, but sometimes they find projects like the Blue Haven home.
“We really like to try and find some more local, independent organizations that have more unique or, perhaps, different approaches to affordable housing,” said Casey Eisenreich, a Bike and Build member from Milwaukee. “So as opposed to building a new home with Habitat, (Blue Haven) is sort of using existing housing and doing temporary housing until finding a permanent house for families. It’s nice to get a holistic picture of the affordable housing situation and how different places are trying to address that.”
The group arrived in Sandpoint Tuesday and will continue their ride to the West Coast on Friday, averaging 75 miles per day.
Dave Pietz with First Presbyterian Church said the group is staying at the church, which is also supplying some of the meals for the team.
“We are very appreciative of the opportunity to help with the affordable housing issues in Bonner County,” Pietz said.
Each member of the Bike and Build team raised $4,800 for affordable housing organizations and to help with funding the trip. As a team, this year, Eisenreich said they raised about $183,000. Since its inception in 2002, the Bike and Build organization has raised $6.2 million for affordable housing. The team members recently finished their grant application process and decided how to allocate the funds they raised, which was a “pretty neat experience,” Eisenreich said.
Staying at places like First Presbyterian, she said, is helpful because the less they have to spend on the trip, the more money will be available to go to their cause. Another way they save money, she said, is by gathering donations along the way, whether it is monetary or food — day old bagels from Panera, restaurant leftovers, etc.
“The most rewarding part of it is just meeting people, whether it’s the community members or the churches that host us,” Eisenreich said. “And then when we stop and do build days, seeing the need and hearing first hand what people are doing to help those in their community — it’s pretty inspirational.”
Last year, a group of more than 30 riders were the first to help out at Blue Haven with painting porches and parking lot lines, remodeling a two-bedroom apartment and fixing up the playground equipment. This year’s group consisted entirely of a new team of participants, who helped with cutting and pulling weeds, more painting, minor repairs and more.
One task this year including cleaning up the property next door to Blue Haven, which was purchased in June by Bonner Homeless Transitions. A large shop on the newly purchased property will be used for storage, but the original home on the land was destroyed by a fire, Mary Jo Ambrosiani, president of Bonner Homeless Transitions’ board of directors.
“Our intention is to build another building — it will probably be a four-unit complex — to continue to assist the families that we take care of,” Ambrosiani said.
The purchase of the property comes in the wake of the organization’s Trestle Creek home closing due to loss of funding. Since 1994, Bonner Homeless Transitions has received annual funding through HUD Supportive Housing Grants. HUD announced this year it is changing its focus and will no longer provide funding in Idaho. Between the two Bonner Homeless Transitions facilities, HUD supplied more than $200,000 a year.
Although they lost funding, Ambrosiani said the members of Bonner Homeless Transitions decided the purchase of the property would be an asset to the organization.
All in all, the Bike and Build group is enjoying their trip, and many of the team members had never been to Idaho before, Eisenreich said.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised,” she said. “Ever since we hit Glacier National Park, the rides have been just breathtaking every day.”
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.