LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Some college students in Kansas managed to overcome the challenges of a global pandemic to do something extraordinary — make new homes for those in need.

18 graduate student volunteers from the University of Kansas Architecture Studio 804 program have spent the past year working on a project that will help the homeless. They partnered with the Lawrence Community Shelter to convert 12 recycled shipping containers into 160-square-foot homes for homeless families.

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“It’s pretty surreal,” architecture student Brennen Hall tells CBS affiliate KCTV.

The shelter normally houses 45 single adults, but because of COVID, the city moved families into permanent housing and would periodically put them up in hotels.

“That’s really expensive it’s far away it’s hard to support families from a hotel,” says Renee Kuhl the Executive Director of the Lawrence Community Shelter.

But this project, known as Monarch Village, will allow between six and 12 families to stay in their own freestanding home, with a kitchenette and private bathroom, right in the shelter’s backyard. It also features covered concrete pads between each of the units and a new 900-square-foot, open-sided commons shelter just north of the facility’s community garden.

“In the closing weeks everything kind of looked the same but seeing it come to life and so many people here enjoying the space that’s what it is all about,” says Hall.

Families in need will start occupying the homes in June.

“At all different places in our community people really care about ending homelessness. People really want to see people experiencing homelessness in Lawrence treated with dignity and respect,” Kuhl says.

KU architecture students usually build a single family home and sell it on the market as their end-of-the-year-assignment, but decided to do this instead. They hope it will jump start a movement to help the homeless that goes beyond the city limits.

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“I know the project does way more than I can ever speak on. I hope the ripple effect from what we are doing here can spread further away from Lawrence,” says Hall.