Bay Area Proud

Volunteer Leads Effort to Build Tiny Homes for Camp Fire Survivors

With the help of a growing number of volunteers, Alyssa Nolan has built and given away 13 tiny homes over the past year.

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Alyssa Nolan knows what it feels like to lose everything.

In 2008, Nolan's home was destroyed in the Butte Complex Lightning Complex Fire. A mother with an infant at the time, Nolan remembers the helplessness she felt. She also remembers how she got back on her feet with the help of family, friends, and even complete strangers.

"Part of my recovery was people showing up that I didn't even know at my door bringing boxes of baby clothes," Nolan said. "So, that really helped me."

So, when Nolan, now living in Oroville, saw the news about the Camp Fire in 2018, she felt compelled to jump in and help out.

"I wanted to help, but I didn't have any money to help, so I gave food and I gave clothes but they didn't need anymore used clothes right?" Nolan said. "I was praying and the Lord really impressed me to build these little houses."

Which, Nolan thought, was a surprising mission seeing as she had absolutely no building experience. Still, she had her faith ... and she had YouTube.

"I started watching YouTube like avidly, right? I logged over 2,000 YouTube videos to learn how to build," Nolan said.

Nolan started building her first tiny home one year ago, alone.

"It rained every single day. I got dumped on every day, there was no cover. And at that point, I worked at a nursing home at night, so I would work out here all day and be exhausted."

As time went on, though, word began to spread about Nolan's efforts and volunteers started showing up to help. Donations, in the form of money and materials, soon followed. So far, they have built and given away 13 tiny homes to Camp Fire survivors.

Like Sally Custer.

Custer lost everything in the fire and has been living in a van with her dog, Samson, ever since. The blue, tiny home that Alyssa and her team built for Custer will be the first roof over her head in 11 months.

"She truly is God's angel sent to us," Custer said of Nolan.

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